The 'Family Guy' syndrome strikes again
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"Family Guy" -- that over-the-top Simpsons-esque animated sitcom, may end up being far more influential than its creator could ever have guessed.
Last year I wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle discussing how DVDs were changing the future of television. The Family Guy served as a case in point:
[Family Guy] premiered after the Super Bowl in 1999 and endlessly promoted, the animated dysfunctional family series was Fox's little darling. But when the show's outrageous humor and unflinching desire to offend got advertisers worried, Fox pre-empted the show regularly, and played shell game with its time slot, resulting in a predictable (intentional, perhaps?) drop in ratings and thus a reason to cancel the show after three seasons.
"Family Guy" still had fans; they just couldn't keep up with Fox's scheduling shenanigans.
Flash forward to 2003, when "Family Guy" was picked up by the Cartoon Network and added to its popular "Adult Swim" late-night cartoon block. Ratings went through the roof. Cartoon Network took the 40 available episodes and let it ride.
Scheduling-challenged but hyper-keen about profits, Fox put out DVD boxed sets of "Family Guy" and sales have passed the 2.5 million mark, opening doors for other long-forgotten or merely ignored series that networks and studios had given up on.
What happened next wasn't really surprising: Realizing it had made a mistake, Fox asked for the series back from MacFarlane, and gave the green light for 35 additional episodes. They will air in spring 2005 on Fox and probably after that on Cartoon Network.
Family Guy is back on prime-time, MacFarlane has another new show on its tail, and he recently released a spin-off DVD-only movie based on the adventures of lovable, misanthropic and matricidal infant Stewie.
So Family Guy proved that DVD could revive a long-dead show. But even more interesting to me than the waning and waxing fates of the best live-action show on television, Arrested Development, is a Sydney Morning Herald story from last week.
The Herald's Michael Idato writes about that my personal favorite show ever, Futurama, may triumphantly return to the small screen, sooner rather than later. According to the show's creators, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen,
"Three months ago, I would have said we were going to start tomorrow," says writer David X. Cohen, who collaborated with Groening on Futurama. "And one month ago I would also have said we were going to start tomorrow. So ..." He pauses. "My current estimate is that we're starting tomorrow."
[...] A return to television or, better, a direct-to-DVD feature would be a natural transition for the show, Cohen says. "The more seriously we took the epic nature of the setting, the better the episodes turned out. For that reason, we always thought that would bode well for a movie because then we could take that to its extreme and do something we couldn't do in 22 minutes."
Now that we in the Bay Area are smack dab in the heart of cold, wet, drab winter (happy Solstice, everyone!), I think I'll go curl up in front of the laptop with all 72 episodes of Futurama and just veg out for 26 hours straight. Hooray for DVD!