Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy has cemented itself as one of the greatest animated comedies of all time. At this point there are The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy: the other cartoons are on a different level. Family Guy has made 15 seasons that span 18 years, and each new episode continues to top the one before it. No longer are cartoons only for children to watch on Saturday mornings. They are now a late-night must-watch for the skeptical young-adult.
It’s impossible to underestimate the impact that Family Guy has had on pop culture. Actors and directors have become such fans of the series that they allow themselves to be the butt of jokes. Actors like James Woods and Ryan Reynolds have made appearances on the show. Even George Lucas, someone who is notoriously critical of parody work, allowed MacFarlane to use popular Star Wars characters in a parody episode because he is a fan of the show.
With a show like this, that has been on forever, there are a lot of facts that go under the radar. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Family Guy.
15. The Original Lois
There have been multiple programs and episodes that preempted the creation of the Family Guy we know and love today. Much has changed over the years, including voice actors, animation and themes. On small detail that often goes unnoticed by many fans is the fact that Lois was actually a blonde in the pilot episode.
Lois is known for her iconic red hairdo, but the original version of Lois was a blonde. The pilot was green-lit by Fox, and Seth MacFarlane, the show’s creator, made the episode with the small $50,000 budget they allocated him. There appears to be no real reason that Lois’ hair color changed. It may have been to make her character stand out more, but a blonde Lois is a rather striking sight after years of watching a redhead.
In a season 11 episode, Lois goes back to blonde in an attempt to catch Peter sleeping with a phone sex operator (who was actually Lois). It speaks to Peter’s intelligence that he can’t recognize his wife, who was initially blonde, when she’s wearing a blonde wig.
14. Brian Griffin is Seth MacFarlane
Many people know that Seth MacFarlane uses his real voice when he voices the character Brian, but the two share more than just a similar way of speaking. Brian is positioned as the voice of reason in this crazy house, and MacFarlane’s own voice and comments come through the character of the family dog. Many of his left-leaning political views and his rationality are similar to the way MacFarlane himself thinks.
MacFarlane, though, doesn’t give Brian any special treatment. Brian is often the butt of the joke, and his pompous attitude and tendencies are made fun of in many episodes. The writers even killed Brian off for a while in 2013, having him be hit by a car and subsequently gone from the plot.
13. The Real Quahog
There is much debate among residents of possible Rhode Island towns about which hamlet is the inspiration for Quahog. The fictional town of Quahog has a few potential locations based on its geographical surroundings, but the fact that there is a coastline in some episodes narrows it down to only Cranston and Providence, with the former being the most likely.
Quahog itself is actually remarkably similar to Cranston, Rhode Island as far as scenery goes, and this was intentional. MacFarlane, the shows creator, wanted the show to be set in a specific location. The setting of The Simpsons, Springfield, is almost exactly the opposite. Springfield is a common name for a town, and there are many possible locations that it can take place.
12. Chris as Buffalo Bill
Chris Griffin is voiced by actor Seth Green, another talented Seth in the Family Guy cast. He admits that when he auditioned for the role, he did an imitation of Ted Levine’s character from Silence of the Lambs, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb. Green says that he tweaked his impression of the character to make it sound as if it was coming out of a PA system, like the one in a fast food drive-through. After this audition, the voice of Chris Griffin was born.
The initial characterization of Chris had him as more of a punk/rebel character, but the voice lent itself better to the eventual evolution of the character as an awkward, uncomfortable teen. In a spectacular reference to the origin of Chris’ voice, Chris reenacts the iconic scene from Silence of the Lambs where Bill tucks his junk between his legs and parades himself around in front of the camera.
11. William H Macy as Brian
While William H Macy is a talented and accomplished actor, envisioning him as the voice of reason in the frantic household that is Family Guy is a bit strange. His voice just doesn’t fit as well as the monotone, sarcastic voice of Seth MacFarlane, and many fans are glad things worked out the way they did.
Macy auditioned for the role of Brian, and if it weren’t for budget constraints, he likely would have gotten the role. Some of the punch would have been taken out of Brian’s character had he been voiced by Macy, and it’s difficult to imagine the show’s progression with a softer-sounding Brian.
Many of the characters in the show were voiced by MacFarlane because it was cheaper to do it himself rather than hiring outside actors. It worked out in the end, and MacFarlane’s voice was cemented among the great voice actors of our generation.
10. Dual Episodes
Many fans of the Family Guy series watch exclusively the episodes that air on television. If this is the case, then you are missing out on some of the jokes that the writers initially wrote. Of course, a lot of content is left on the cutting room floor for a lot of shows. There are censors to be conscious of, as well as time constraints that must be adhered to, but Family Guy saves the excess material and releases the untouched episodes on DVD. Some of the jokes are tame, but others had no shot of ever making it to TV.
One particularly over-the-line joke was made in season 6’s “Movin’ Out” episode. After the segment that was on TV ends, a banner to promote The Simpsons runs at the bottom. In the banner, Quagmire can be seen forcing himself on Marge Simpson as she resists. The two go off screen and come back, discussing the sex they just had. The scene then changes to a shot of the Simpson’s house where Quagmire and Marge can be heard finishing another round. Homer walks in and catches them, prompting Quagmire to kill the entire family, including baby Maggie. You can probably see why this didn’t make it on Fox, the network that hosts both shows.
9. Carrie Fisher’s Cameo
Many actors and celebrities have made cameos on Family Guy over the years. Iconic personalities like James Woods, Tom Brady, and Ryan Reynolds have even come on to play themselves, but one of the most overlooked cameo in all of Family Guy is made by Princess Leia herself.
Carrie Fisher plays the role of Peter’s aggressive and sexually suggestive boss, Angela. That bossy, whip-smart voice may have sounded familiar to you, but you just weren’t able to place it. The character started as a small one, but Angela has been making appearances throughout every season since she was first introduced. Her relationship with Peter intentionally mocks and subverts the genders in typical office sexual harassment.
8. Peter’s Origin Story
Peter Griffin, the main character of Family Guy and patriarch of the Griffin family, was born of humble beginnings. While the character itself is based on the comical ineptitude of earlier sitcom fathers, the voice came from Seth MacFarlane’s experiences.
Peter’s voice is based on a security guard who was working at the college MacFarlane attended. MacFarlane and friends would laugh at the way he spoke, as it was hard to take him seriously with such a voice. MacFarlane has said in interviews that the man had a loud and hilarious Rhode Island accent. That accent was rather unique, and would not be introduced to the world until Family Guy eventually became part of mainstream comedy culture.
7. Death Was Supposed to Be a Regular
The classic depiction of Death in Family Guy is a perfect fit for their take on the nuclear family, and the voice of Norm MacDonald lent itself brilliantly to the role. The role of Death in Family Guy was supposed to be a recurring and eventually become a running joke. The constant presence of death is a deep concept, and one that would have fit nicely in Family Guys’ juxtaposed themes. It didn’t end up panning out, though, and Death was relegated to a cameo role in certain episodes.
Norm MacDonald was eventually replaced by Adam Carolla and the series included Death only when needed. It may be a bit difficult to include such a character in the plot of every single episode, which could be why they scrapped the idea. He’s a great character and would have been a fantastic running joke, but the writers of the show decided to go in a more subtle and understated joke for the fans; more on that below.
6. Family Guy Was Cancelled
Family Guys is ingrained in the minds of so many fans as one of the great comedy TV shows in history, but it wasn’t always viewed this way. After the second season of the show, Fox decided that they would be cancelling it. It was renewed for a third season at the last minute, but aired up against other powerhouses like Friends and Survivor. Fox moved the time slot for Family Guy around, but never alerted fans of the show and the ratings fell as a result. The show was cancelled again after its second season, and many people though that this was the end.
The revival of the show occurred, in large part, due to the reruns airing on Adult Swim, the late-night Cartoon Network channel. The rights were purchased by the network for virtually nothing, and the network aired the first three seasons of the show during its hiatus from 2002 to 2005. The show dominated its new time slot, and DVD sales skyrocketed. This prompted Fox to pick up the show for a third time, which is unique for a network program.
5. What the Hell?
One of the more under-appreciated running jokes on Family Guy is the fact that someone says some version of “What the hell?” in every episode of the show. A lot of episodic shows like Family Guy use running jokes as a small reward for fans who tune in every week. Usually it’s something obvious like Peter fighting the giant chicken or Kenny dying in every episode of South Park, but this repeating line flies under the radar for even the most invested Family Guy fanatic.
It’s a subtle, little dig that the writers have continued to press, and it soars over the head of many in the audience. Once it gets brought to your attention you start to notice all of the quotes and feel as though you’re on the circle of an inside joke. It doesn’t have to be a deep, secondary plot like the writers of Rick and Morty are said to be planning; sometimes it can be as simple as a PG-rated curse word.
4. The Original Meg
Meg is one of, if not the only, characters in Family Guy to have her voice actor change over the course of the series. The original voice of Meg was Lacey Chabert, who most people know for her role as Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls. She played Meg for the first season of the show, but the show has so many more episodes with her replacement, Mila Kunis, that not many people realize that Chabert was involved at all.
The departure wasn’t particularly interesting, as Chabert reportedly never intended to stay with the show until the end, and was replaced by Kunis after her contract ended. Chabert made a couple more guest appearances and references on the show after her departure, including voicing a line as Meg in the episode “Yug Ylimaf,” where Brian and Stewie travel back to the future. Chabert is also referenced by name in “Business Guy” as Peter threatens to replace Lois.
3. Stoner of the Year
The cultural impact of Family Guy can be seen across the globe. The show has a reputation for providing amusing yet meaningful commentary on certain situations in our society. Of course, there are a fair amount of goofs and gaffes along the way, but the show usually makes the writers’ position known on many of the social issues, even if it’s just teasing them.
In one such episode, Brian advocates for the legalization of marijuana and eventually succeeds. The town is subsequently made worse by the change, as it is proven that not everyone can handle being high, and the law is eventually overturned.
During this episode, one of the more iconic songs, “Bag of Weed,” is introduced into the show. Brian and Stewie lead the song, and Brian’s advocacy for the legalization of marijuana, combined with his prevalent use of the substance, prompted High Times to name Brian the “Stoner of the Year” for 2009.
2. The Life of Larry
Seth MacFarlane didn’t just luck into animation and voice acting; this was his envisioned career path since he was in school He began illustrating at a young age and went to college to further his ability. For his senior project, MacFarlane created a cartoon that can be seen as the foundation on which Family Guy was built.
He wrote, animated and voice acted for his animation, entitled The Life of Larry, which dealt with many of the same themes that can be seen in the general plot of Family Guy. The characters in his original project were not as bombastic as the ones on his eventual TV show, but the inspiration for the show can be seen in his early work.
One of the main characters of the show is a talking dog who serves as the voice of reason, much like Brian does in Family Guy. This short eventually landed MacFarlane his chance to make a TV series, and he’s certainly made the most of it.
1. Seth MacFarlane Narrowly Missed Being a 911 Victim
Seth MacFarlane, by all accounts, should never have lived long enough to make a third season of Family Guy. This is not because the show wasn’t good, but because he was actually supposed to be on United Airlines Flight 11, one of the planes that flew into the World Trade Center on 911.
MacFarlane says that he was hungover that morning, and that he thought his flight left later than it did. He accidentally missed his flight – something that almost everyone has done at least once in their life, but little did he know that this mistake would save his life.
Because of this fact, and the fact that MacFarlane has openly talked about it, some fans have concoted conspiracy theories surrounding the show. None of them have any real basis in fact, but there are some interesting theories out there that indicate Seth MacFarlane may be a time traveler.
Do you have any Family Guy trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!