From about 2001-2007, I was a diehard Family Guy fan. I owned all the boxsets (before you could easily find episodes online), I quoted Peter and Brian and Quagmire to my friends, and I maintained that for that era it was better than what The Simpsons were putting out. Seth MacFarlane‘s cutaway jokes to nostalgic TV shows and oh-no-they-didn’t plot twists hit this sweet spot of dark, twisted humor for me. It was one of my favorite shows.
But most sitcoms wear out their welcome after a few seasons, if they don’t evolve to keep people’s attention or if the facade wears thin and their jokes just seem unnecessarily cruel. I stopped watching after season 5 (2006-2007), though I will say that the season 5 episode “Prick Up Your Ears” is one of the series’ best. (Not only was the overarching plot, about ridiculous sex ed, hilarious, but there are still specific one-liners like “You wouldn’t put a plastic bag over your grandmother’s head?” that I still quote to friends.)
I think the two-pronged complaint about Family Guy from about season 6 onward was a) the cutaway style is cheap and easy as opposed to a linear plot; and b) they just went too far. There was the abortion episode that never aired, and “Extra Large Medium” featured a voice actor with Down Syndrome but seemed more cruel than progressive. So, I basically put Family Guy out of my mind for a few years.
Then I started seeing ads for MacFarlane’s new movie Ted, starring himself and Mark Wahlberg as a 35-year-old slacker and his similarly unmotivated talking teddy bear. I literally had friends say, “I’m so sorry you have to go review this,” but I was cautiously optimistic that Ted might tap into the humor of the early seasons of Family Guy. And honestly, I really liked it! The jokes are clearly intended for Family Guy devotees, but without getting too outlandish or going overboard.