Was Family Guy Meant To Be a Kids' Show?
May 30, 2017
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
NC: We're all familiar with the show Family Guy. Either fondly...
(The clip from the episode Brian's Got a Brand New Bag is shown, featuring Peter Griffin standing between Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt who took the football from the latter)
Peter Griffin: Okay, that is the LAST time you're gonna pull that crap!
(Peter kicks Lucy in the face)
NC: Not so fondly...
(A clip from the episode Wasted Talent is shown, with Peter having hurt his knee after falling)
Peter: Sssssssssss..... Aaaaaaaaaahhhh. Ssssss-
NC: Or... seasons 1 through 6 fondly enough.
NC (vo): But here's something you may not have known. Before the long-running series... well... briefly short-running series, THEN long-running series...
NC: I know nothing about that. (His smile briefly fades as he looks offscreen in embarrassment)
NC (vo): Cartoon Network ran a short in 1997 you may find a little familiar.
Steve: Uh, Larry, it says here your license is suspended.
Larry: Oh, no, they-they-they just took it away temporarily.
NC (vo): Yep, that's Seth MacFarlane doing a eerily similar Brian the Dog as well as a eerily similar Peter Griffin, only here, they're not called Brian and Peter, they're called Larry and Steve.
NC: And yes, this was played on Cartoon Network during the day, NOT during Adult Swim! This was meant for kids!
(The What A Cartoon! logo appears as well as the title card for The Powerpuff Girls: Meat Fuzzy Lumkins and the logo for Johnny Bravo)
NC (vo): It was part of Cartoon Network experimenting with cartoon pilots on a section they called What A Cartoon!, which resulted in several popular shows being made.
NC: So... was the original idea for Family Guy supposed to be a kids' show?
NC (vo): It certainly seems that way. The 7-minute short begins with Steve talking to a camera explaining his situation: that being stuck with Larry.
(Steve the dog is shown speaking to the camera)
Steve: Hi, there. My name's Steve. I'm a dog, in-in case you're... um... well, stupid.
NC (vo): Apparently, he was at the pound, and out of all the humans, Larry was the only one who can understand him. This is hilarously never explained, as everyone else just hears him bark. It's... just kind of how this world works.
Steve: You will be indirectly responsible for the resulting euthanasia.
Larry: Oh, boy, they got enough kids over there as it is.
NC (vo): Steve, of course, is an intelligent cynic, and Larry is a brainless doofus, and somehow they have to survive mundane adventures like getting a new lamp. With Larry, however, that proves difficult as he's constantly getting them into trouble.
(The mechanical bed whaps Steve onto the wall)
Larry: How do you feel, Steve?
Steve: Like Agamemnon after the fury of Clytemnestra.
NC: Think kind of Inspector Gadget and Brain going to the grocery store; he's always got to save him.
NC (vo): The humor isn't hiliarous, but it's not bad either, it has a lot of slapstick cartoony jokes, as well as a good line here and there.
Larry: I-I think I know what I'm talking about, alright? Alright? I-I-I didn't spend twelve years in kindergarden 'cause I'm stupid!
NC (vo): It even has bits of surreal humor similar to what Family Guy would eventually incorporate.
Saleslady: Just ask our spokesperson, Mickey the xenophobic Scotsman!
Mickey: Ahhh! People!
(Mickey runs away and smashes through the glass window)
NC: What's especially funny is all the foreshadowing to the Family Guy show that ends up here.
NC (vo): For example, the names of one of the stores they're looking for is Stewie's, which would eventually be Peter's son in the show.
Larry: Uh, Stewie's has usually got good stuff.
(An elderly couple is shown playing chess)
NC (vo): This guy looks pretty close to (picture of...) Peter's dad. Either that, or... (picture of Herbert is shown) Ehhh, let's just hope it's not him. Steve's design, you can certainly see elements of Brian in, and Larry, though seemingly different in layout, actually is very similar. Just trim down the nose, change the hair, it's surprisingly really close. Overall, it's a cute little short, and honestly might've been a decent kids' show. Maybe along the lines of Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Lab, and so on. However, while those shows were picked up, Seth's wasn't. The Network passed on this show, but liked Seth's style so much, that they brought him on to be a writer on some of the shows that DID get picked up. (Logos for I Am Weasel and Cow and Chicken are shown)
NC: He would try again on another show, though, called Zoomates. Another pilot, but this time for Nickelodeon (Oh Yeah! Cartoons). And this time with the help of Butch Hartman, who would go on to develop hits like Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom.
NC: It was... odd... but for different reasons his other shows are odd.
NC (vo): It was just animals trying to live together in an apartment, but messing things up. Standard enough, but there was a laugh track over the entire show.
Polar Bear: I'm gonna bust your head when I'm finished!
(The laugh track is heard)
Polar Bear: Whoooa, I'm dizzy!
NC (vo): To this day, I have no idea if this was done ironically, or in the same spirit as The Flintstones, where we're supposed to believe somehow an audience is laughing at this.
(The hallway floods while the polar bear is asleep. The laugh track is still heard)
NC (vo): No surprise, this one was not picked up. However, executives from FOX saw Larry and Steve, and were interested in Seth creating a show based on the concept, except with an adult edge. This is naturally where Family Guy came from.
NC: So, there it is! Family Guy was originally meant for kids, right? Well, there's another part of the story.
NC (vo): You see, while at the Rhode Island School for Design, Seth had to put together a thesis film in 1995. It starred himself introducing his animated characters living in an everyday suburban home, embarking on surreal adventures with cutaways. The name of that thesis? The Life of Larry. Which once again, stars a doofus named Larry, and his talking cynical dog named Steve.
Larry: Yeah, oh...I...oh, I think what happens is he, uh, eats his food, and then whatever Spot can't finish.
Steve: Wh-wh-where did you- where did you hear that?
Larry: Episode 65.
NC: And wouldn't you know it, he also has a patient wife named Lois...
Prototype Lois: Fine! Let's have this conversation for the ten-millionth time, Larry!
NC (vo): ...an overweight son named Milt, instead of Chris, and a much more adult tone. In fact, many of these jokes would eventually make its way into the Family Guy pilot, which would eventually make its way to the Family Guy show. It's actually kind of eerie how similar these jokes are in every incarnation.
Larry: I got it! That's the guy from Big!
Pilot-Peter: Tom Hanks! That's it! Aw, funny guy!
Peter: Everything he says is a stitch!
Tom Hanks in Philadelphia: I have AIDS.
(Peter laughs, then Pilot-Peter laughs, and Larry laughs)
NC (vo): So when FOX saw this was also part of the Larry and Steve portfolio, they said that matched their animation outline perfect.
NC: Although... maybe not perfect enough.
NC (vo): It was decided they should fatten up their lead, give them a baby (Stewie), add a geeky daughter (Meg), and focus more on the family dynamic, hence the title, Family Guy. Looking all too familiar to another animated FOX family (The Simpsons).
NC: So... there's kind of a lot to be discovered here, isn't there? Was Family Guy originally meant to be a kids' show? For a short amount of time.
NC (vo): Originally, it was an adult comedy film thesis about a guy and his dog, which turned into a kids' show pilot about a guy and his dog, which turned into an adult show pilot that was made to be more like The Simpsons, because it was on FOX. So not only was it at one point a kids' show, it actually had little-to-no tie-in with The Simpsons at all. Which is a criticism they've had had to fight for years.
(Clips from the Family Guy/The Simpsons crossover episode The Simpsons Guy are shown)
NC (vo): Even in The Simpsons/Family Guy crossover they referenced it, and the Simpsons took more than their fair share of punches at them.
Homer Simpson: It's just a lousy ripoff!
Peter: It may have been INSPIRED by Duff, but I... I like to think it goes in a different direction.
NC (vo): While it's pretty obvious where that later influence came from for Family Guy, you can see the original idea has no connection.
NC: So the evolution of an idea isn't always as simple as you think. Actually, many times, it's very complicated.
NC (vo): From an adult show, to a kids' show, to an all-too-familiar FOX formula, this idea has gone through so many versions. But truth be told, all of them are interesting to check out. It you can find them, obviously, you can tell from the quality here they're not the easiest to locate, they're certainly worth viewing to witness the creative process. Whether you love Family Guy, hate it, used to love it, or used to hate it, there's no denying the content-changing ways and ideas for it is intriguing to watch.
NC: But serously, that "hurt knee" joke has to stop. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to!
(He stands up and starts to leave)
NC (offscreen): WHOOOAA-
(NC falls and hurts his knee)
NC (offscreen): Sssssssssssss..... Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Sssssssssssss..... Ooow, goddammit!
(The credits roll)