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Family Guy was launched on January 31, 1999, after Super Bowl XXXIII after its predecessor, the Larry shorts, caught the attention of the Fox Broadcasting Company.
This episode attracted 22 million viewers. The show premiered as a regular series in April and ran for six additional episodes until the season finale in mid-May. The first season had seven episodes which introduced the show's main characters. The second season began on September 23, 1999, and suffered competition from other shows. After only two episodes of the second season, Family Guy was taken off the network's permanent schedule and shown irregularly thereafter. The show returned in March 2000 to finish airing the second season which contained 21 episodes. The third season contained 22 episodes and began its run on July 11, 2001.
During its second and third season runs, Fox frequently moved the show around different days and time slots with little or no notice and consequently, the show's ratings suffered. When Family Guy was shown in the UK, and when the DVDs were subsequently released there on November 12, 2001, the first seven episodes of the second season were included with the first season, balancing them out with 14 episodes each.
There was a great deal of debate and rumor during the second and third seasons about whether Family Guy would be canceled or renewed. Fox publicly announced that the show had been canceled at the end of the second season. In an attempt to convince Fox to renew the show, dismayed fans created websites, signed petitions, and wrote letters; some even sent actual diapers and baby food to the network to save Stewie.
A shift in power at Fox resulted in the ordering of thirteen new episodes forming the basis of the third season. Keenly aware of the uncertainty of the show's future, the writers referenced the uncertainty in several episodes, specifically "The Thin White Line", Where Fox let them say expletives for the first time without being hidden by background noise like a bell. It was bleeped, of course.
During the third season, Fox announced that Family Guy was canceled for good.
Return to television
In 2003, Family Guy gained its first syndicated run on Canada's Teletoon network, where it quickly gained massive popularity due to frequent airings. Several months later, reruns of the series finally found a permanent home at Cartoon Network's late-night Adult Swim block, where it continues to play as per its contract through 2015.
The series found further success on DVD, when it was finally released for the US market on April 15, 2003. Divided into two volumes, Family Guy sold 2.2 million DVD units in the first year, reportedly surpassing every other TV-based DVD released in 2003, including Sex and the City and Friends compilations. The significant Cartoon Network ratings combined with the unprecedented DVD sales, led to widespread rumors that Fox was in talks to revive the series.
On November 19, 2003, the E! Entertainment Television channel and its website reported that Fox was negotiating with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane to revive the show with 35 new episodes. In a February 27, 2004 interview with IGN, Seth MacFarlane confirmed that Family Guy would resume production.
On March 26, 2004, Fox Broadcasting Company officially announced that it had committed to producing at least 22 more episodes of Family Guy for broadcast in early 2005. Adult Swim retained a window to run these episodes, starting on May 1, 2005.
The fourth-season premiere of Family Guy aired on Sunday, May 1, 2005, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Fox, and poked fun at the show's former troubles by showing a 2002 flashback with Peter listing of Fox shows that would have to fail before Family Guy would be able to return. An important reason for the show's current success is the Sunday night time slot along with other Fox animated programs. Reruns of the fourth season began play during Adult Swim on June 9, 2005.
A Family Guy direct-to-DVD movie titled, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, which combined three Family Guy episodes into one coherent story with added scenes was released on September 27, 2005. The 88-minute film is unrated in the US and includes commentary, deleted material, and other bonus features. An edited version of the film was shown as the season finale on May 21, 2006. The film's plot concerns Stewie finding out what he is like in the future. Originally, the movie was going to be made before the TV episodes, but the film got pushed back when the ideas within the episodes took off. On the same day of the DVD movie's release, Variety reported that 20th Century Fox greenlit production of 22 additional all new episodes of Family Guy, which began airing on FOX on September 10, 2006.
A Family Guy video game was produced under the 2K Games banner, and was developed by High Voltage Software. Playable characters include Peter, Brian and Stewie. The game was released on October 25, 2006 on the PlayStation Portable, Xbox and PlayStation 2. The video game is rated M for Mature and is rated 15 in the UK.
- "Stewie Kills Lois" marked the show's 100th episode. "Brian & Stewie" was celebrated as the show's 150th episode, "Yug Ylimaf" was celebrated as Family Guy's 200th episode and 'Fighting Irish" marks the show's 250th.
- The show celebrated its Tenth Anniversary on January 31, 2009.
The show usually revolves around the adventures of Peter Griffin, a bumbling but well-intentioned blue-collar worker. Peter is an Irish American Catholic with a prominent Rhode Island / Eastern Massachusetts accent. His wife Lois is generally a stay-at-home mother and piano teacher, and has a distinct New England accent from being a member of the Pewterschmidt family of wealthy socialites. Peter and Lois have three children: teenage daughter Meg, who is frequently the butt of Peter's jokes due to her homeliness and lack of popularity; teenage son Chris, who is overweight, unintelligent and, in many respects, a younger version of his father; and son Stewie, a diabolical infant of ambiguous sexual orientation who has adult mannerisms and speaks fluently with what some consider an upper-class affected English accent and stereotypical archvillain phrases. Living with the family is Brian, the family dog, who is highly anthropomorphized, walks on two legs, drinks Martinis, smokes cigarettes and engages in human conversation, though he is still considered a pet in many respects.
The main cast and their main parts are as follows:
- Seth MacFarlane: Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Brian, Glenn Quagmire, Tom Tucker, and additional voices
- Alex Borstein: Lois Griffin and additional voices
- Seth Green: Chris Griffin and additional voices
- Mila Kunis: Meg Griffin
- Mike Henry: Cleveland Brown, Herbert and additional voices
The main cast do voices for several recurring characters other than those listed, as well as impersonate celebrities and pop-culture icons.
Current Recurring cast members include: Patrick Warburton as Joe Swanson; Adam West as Mayor Adam West; Jennifer Tilly as Bonnie Swanson; John G. Brennan as Mort Goldman; Adam Carolla as Death, a role originated by Norm MacDonald and Christine Lakin as Joyce Kinney.
Lacey Chabert voiced Meg Griffin for the first production season of 15 episodes; however, because of a contractual agreement, she was never credited. She would would later receive on-screen credit for her pre-existing performances in "Back to the Pilot" and "Yug Ylimaf".
For the first half of the first season, the writers tried to work the words "murder" or "death" into the title of every episode to make the titles resemble those of old-fashioned radio mystery shows. On the DVD commentary for the first episode "Death Has a Shadow", creator Seth MacFarlane says that the writers stopped doing this when they realized they were beginning to get the titles confused. Beginning with "A Hero Sits Next Door", the episodes feature titles descriptive of their plots.
The DVD Debacle
While Season 1 & Season 2 were combined in the US into Family Guy Volume 1, the first 7 episodes of Season 2 were placed with Season 1 in regions 2 & 4 to create a season 1 box set and the first three seasons were marketed individually. When the show unexpectedly returned for a fourth season, FOX marketing believed that overseas buyers would hesitate to buy new box sets not labeled as complete seasons so they continued to label each box as a "season" despite the fact that they bear little in common with the FOX broadcasting season. Reg. 2 & 4 "Season 4" set only contains the first half of season 4 while the box set labeled as "Season 5" contains the second half and has been misleading buyers ever since. To add to the confusion, Broadcast season 5 was broken up with part of the episodes labeled as Reg. 1 Family Guy Volume 5 / Reg. 2 & 4 Season 6 and the remainder added with episodes from Season 6 to make Family Guy Volume 6/Season 7. Beginning with the releases of region 1 Family Guy Volume 11 & region 2 & 4 "Family Guy Season 12", new releases contain the entirety of a broadcast season starting with Season 10. Starting with Family Guy Season 12, the Reg. 1 DVD sets were renamed to reflect the entire broadcast season. However, select disks in the set are still marked as "Volume 13".
In March 2007, comedian Carol Burnett filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming that it was a copyright infringement for her Charwoman cleaning character to be portrayed on the show without her permission. Besides that, Burnett stated that Fox violated her publicity rights. She was asking for $6 million in damages. On June 4, 2007, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson rejected the lawsuit, stating that the parody was protected under the First Amendment, using Hustler v. Falwell as a precedent.
On October 3, 2007, Bourne Co. Music Publishers filed a lawsuit accusing the show of copyright infringement upon the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" by a parody song entitled "I Need a Jew" from "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein". Bourne Co., the sole U.S. copyright owner of the song, alleged the parody pairs a "thinly veiled" copy of their music with antisemitic lyrics. Named in the suit were Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Co., Cartoon Network, Seth MacFarlane, and composer Walter Murphy; the suit sought to stop the program's distribution, and unspecified damages.
Because "I Need a Jew" uses the copyrighted melody without commenting on that song, Bourne argued that it may not be a First Amendment–protected parody per the Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. ruling.
On March 16, 2009, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled that Family Guy did not infringe copyright when they transformed the song "When You Wish Upon a Star" for comical use in an episode.
In December 2007, actor/comedian Art Metrano filed a lawsuit accusing the show of copyright infringement over a scene in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story in which Jesus performs Metrano's signature "magic" act which involved absurd faux magical hand gestures such as making a finger "jump" from one hand to the other while humming the distinctive tune "Fine and Dandy". Metrano's suit claims this performance is protected under terms of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. Named in the suit are 20th Century Fox, show creator Seth MacFarlane, and collaborators Steve Callaghan and Alex Borstein. Metrano performed this routine on programs such as The Tonight Show, where he made several appearances.
On July 17, 2009, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.’s motion to dismiss the case.