Family Guy is the show that made Seth MacFarlane a star. After a couple of seasons, Fox tried to cancel it. But a few years later, when the DVD sales were strong and the Adult Swim reruns were getting huge ratings, the network decided to bring it back. Now, 17 seasons and more than 300 episodes later, Family Guy is still kicking – but it’s virtually unrecognizable compared to its former self.
In season 1, the characters and stories were completely different than they are today in season 17. So, here are 10 Ways Family Guy Has Changed Since Season 1.
10 It’s far less similar to The Simpsons now
When Family Guy first hit the airwaves, it was criticized for being a pale imitation of The Simpsons. There was the overweight, beer-swilling, blue-collar husband; the nagging, downtrodden housewife; the idiotic son who bore similarities to his father; the daughter no one listened to; and the secretly evil baby.
However, as the show went on – especially after it was canceled and then brought back – it became a sort of dark version of The Simpsons. It was more offensive, more violent, and less bothered with family values. Now, apart from the fact that it’s an adult-oriented cartoon series about a family, it has very little in common with The Simpsons.
9 Meg is constantly mocked
In the early seasons of Family Guy, Meg talks like an inaccurate TV portrayal of a teenage girl, constantly talking about the guy she had a crush on, trying to become popular, being embarrassed by her parents, and wanting to get collagen injections in her lips.
When the writers finally realized they couldn’t write for a teenage girl, since Family Guy has a predominantly male writing staff, they decided to just have all the other characters rag on her all the time. She’s gone from an all-too-typical teenage girl to the Griffin family’s whipping post since the show’s first season.
8 It’s full of self-aware jokes
Family Guy’s smartest jokes these days are actually at its own expense. Over the years, as it developed on its own, it built a reputation. It became generally regarded as a rip-off of The Simpsons that relied too heavily on cutaway gags and not enough on story and character development.
But rather than take in this feedback and evolve the show into something better, they took it on the chin and started making meta jokes about itself. Now, the characters are aware they’re on a TV show and the fourth wall barely exists anymore. “Deleted scenes” are used to explain plot contrivances, while we’re often told that the characters are really “actors” playing the characters.
7 Stewie isn’t an evil matricidal genius anymore
When we first met Stewie Griffin, he was an evil genius who wanted to kill his mother and was always working on some kind of weapon or scheme that he could use to eliminate her. Over the years, his characterization has changed drastically.
He’s still a genius who can build futuristic gadgets. He has his own time machine and he’s got a plutonium guy. But his edge was softened and his sexuality was made ambiguous. The writers seem to have realized that a sexually confused baby is funnier than an evil baby. The evil baby was funny, but not truly brilliant.
6 The humor is a lot darker
Although the show began as a more or less straightforward family sitcom, Family Guy has now made countless jokes about pedophilia, rape, incest, disability, domestic violence, terminal illness, and a ton of other topics that either shouldn’t be joked about in as ham-fisted a manner as Family Guy does or shouldn’t be joked about at all.
A ton of Family Guy’s jokes are racist, sexist, antisemitic, or otherwise mean-spirited. Actually, the key difference between South Park and Family Guy seems to be that South Park never uses offensive humor for the sake of offending viewers, whereas Family Guy does – especially in its later years.
5 The show does gimmicky episodes now
Like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Family Guy has kept itself fresh by shaking up its formula and doing gimmicky episodes. The episodes in the first couple of seasons followed a pretty rigid structure: Peter screws up, Lois gets mad, Peter fixes the screw-up, Lois forgives him, rinse and repeat.
In later seasons, they’ve been doing gimmicky episodes like a trilogy of specials based on the Star Wars movies, a fake making-of documentary exploring the fictional behind-the-scenes drama on the show, and a three-part episode showing how three Hollywood directors would envision an episode of Family Guy. In the latest season, there was even an episode that didn’t exist with the characters doing a DVD commentary over it.
4 Brian is a Prius-driving liberal douche
At the beginning of the series, Brian was just the voice of reason. He’d drink martinis, read the paper, call out Peter’s idiocy, and what made it funny was the fact that he was a talking dog. However, after the novelty of being a talking dog wore off, he morphed into an entirely different character.
He adamantly holds liberal political views and blindly hates everyone with conservative views without really being informed on the issues. He drives a hybrid car and acts like he’s singlehandedly saving the world. The comedic focus is less on the fact that he’s a dog, but he’s become a funnier and more defined character as a result.
3 Peter and Lois fell out of love
In the early episodes of Family Guy, like The Simpsons, Peter always did something that made Lois angry and then he would later make up for it and they would declare their love for each other. Back then, their marriage had its ups and downs – like Homer and Marge’s, and everyone else’s – but it was generally strong.
However, in more recent seasons, it’s pretty clear that they no longer love each other. Peter has heavily hinted that he’s cheated on Lois a bunch of times, while she is clearly unhappy. It’s unique, since no other show does this, but it’s also pretty depressing.
2 The cutaways are more forced
In the early seasons of Family Guy, the episodes had actual plotting, and the cutaways worked around the plot, rather than the other way around. Now, it seems like the writers have a big board filled with cutaway gag ideas and just build a very loose storyline around them. It’s more forced these days.
This is probably due to Seth MacFarlane leaving the writing staff. He used to write for Family Guy in its earliest years. As the inventor of the cutaway gag, he probably knew the best way to do them and could polish up any rough edges. He doesn’t have the time to do it anymore.
1 Meg is voiced by Mila Kunis
The biggest change from Family Guy’s first season is that the role of Meg has been recast. Originally, she was played by Lacey Chabert, who is perhaps best known for appearing in Mean Girls, for which she received the 2005 MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Team along with the rest of the cast.
Chabert was replaced by Mila Kunis after season 1, due to her commitments to school and Party of Five getting in the way of Family Guy’s production schedule. The show sometimes references the recasting. In “Business Guy,” when Peter became mad with power, he told the other characters, “Does the name Lacey Chabert mean anything to you?” hinting that he would also have them recast if they questioned him.