‘Family Guy’: Why Fox Refused to Air This Episode

Family Guy is one of the current TV shows most known for controversies, however, one controversy might outshine them all. The controversy in question surrounded the episode “Partial Terms of Endearment.” Fox refused to air the episode for a specific reason. Here’s a look at the story behind “Partial Terms of Endearment.”

Family Guy characters | FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

What happened when Seth MacFarlane pitched a controversial ‘Fox News’ episode to Fox

Firstly, a little background. Like its peers The Simpsons and South Park, Family Guy has never shied away from political topics. The show covered everything from same-sex marriage to marijuana legalization to the many controversies of Donald Trump’s administration. One issue, however, was apparently too contentious for Fox to cover.

“Partial Terms of Endearment” is about Lois Griffin dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. By the end of the episode, Lois decides to have an abortion. During an interview with The New York Times Blog, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane revealed how the episode came to be. “The pitch was something that came up in the writers’ room, I don’t remember exactly from whom,” he said. “But Danny wrote the episode, and really did a very deft job. He referred to probably the best essay on abortion that I’ve ever read, from Carl Sagan’s book Billions and Billions, and he referenced that periodically throughout the course of the episode. And we pitched it to Fox. In open-minded, characteristic Fox fashion, they said, ‘O.K., you can make this episode, we reserve the right not to air it.’”

A performance of the Family Guy theme

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Fox refused to air “Partial Terms of Endearment” and MacFarlane said part of it was because of linguistics. “Part of it is just saying the word ‘abortion’,” he recalled. “There are certain words and phrases that are, to a lot of people, comedy red zones that you just shouldn’t enter. We had a joke that was at the expense of Al-Qaeda, and certainly nothing to do with the 9/11 victims, and they were very skittish about us using the phrase ‘World Trade Center.'”

How Seth MacFarlane wanted ‘Family Guy’ to deal with abortion

MacFarlane said he didn’t want the episode to tackle the subject without Lois making a decision. He said his approach to the episode was inspired by his dislike of the Kevin Costner comedy Swing Vote. In that film, the lead character votes without the audience knowing what decision he made. MacFarlane found this ending unsatisfying and he didn’t want “Partial Terms of Endearment” to follow a similar path.

Seth MacFarlane | Mike Smith/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

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How critics reacted to the episode

Though Fox refused to air “Partial Terms of Endearment,” the BBC’s Channel 4 aired it According to Digital Spy, this airing of the episode garnered 0.83 million viewers. This was a slight decline from the previous week’s episode. “Partial Terms of Endearment” was released on DVD so American fans did et to see it. “Partial Terms of Endearment” was too contentious for the United States, but Great Britain seemed not to take offense to it.