Family Guy was a cultural landmark of the early to mid-2000s that pushed the boundaries of television comedy and saw tremendous success in parodying and deconstructing the common sitcom tropes of the time. Now it’s just kind of around and still making too much money for Fox to cancel it. Newer seasons of Family Guy aren’t necessarily bad, they just aren’t as disruptive or as surprising as the show’s heyday. The humor in Family Guy became the norm and with other programs already starting to iterate on that style of humor, it feels more like an ongoing relic of that period of television than anything else.
Nevertheless, Family Guy made headlines recently when the people behind the show announced that they were going to start phasing gender bias and preference jokes out of future episodes. While this announcement is at least an acknowledgment of how the show’s humor is frequently problematic, it mostly just sparked discussion about all of Family Guy’s long-running and more recent issues. A lot of the show’s problems stem for being on the air for too long, but there are also elements that just aren’t acceptable to most decent people in 2019, if they ever were at all.
For as influential and successful as Family Guy is, even dedicated fans can admit that the show has a host of problems, now more than ever. It’s not clear if these 25 problems will ever be fully phased out in the show’s future – or even how much of a future Family Guy has left – but it’s still important to acknowledge them as a facet of one of the most influential shows of the 21st century.
25 It Reuses A Lot Of Jokes
Family Guy has a wide array of running gags and often references jokes from previous episodes. However, it also outright reuses jokes from time to time. For instance, in the 16th season, the show uses the exact same moving a couch through a door joke as it did its first Star Wars parody. While there is a bit of humor in this brazenness, it also feels pretty lazy. It also inspires the question of why anyone would watch an old joke in a new episode of Family Guy when they could see it in a classic (and funnier) episode.
24 That Giant Fake Out With Brian
In the twelfth season of Family Guy, Brian is written out of the show, the Griffin family processes this loss, and then they adopt a new dog. However, a few episodes later, Brian is revived and that entire series of events is undone using time travel. Undoing this development puzzled a lot of viewers as it transformed what seemed to be an effort to change the show into a jumping-the-shark moment. People were excited about Family Guy changing, and then it went right back to the status quo.
23 It Doesn’t Do Nearly Enough Parody
Some of the absolute best episodes and moments in Family Guy stem from the show directly parodying other pieces of media. Its parody of the original Star Wars trilogy is some of the show’s finest work and it’s a shame that it doesn’t do this more often. Family Guy, and the extended MacFarlane universe, contains a vast collection of characters that could fill any role in any parody. An entire season dedicated to parodying different movies would be incredible and exactly what the show needs to return to its former glory.
22 That One Time It Used A YouTube Video Without Permission
In an episode in the 14th season of Family Guy, Peter and his friends play Double Dribble for the Nintendo Entertainment System. However, the footage used to represent the characters playing Double Dribble was lifted off of YouTube without the person who recorded and uploaded the video being compensated. Even if Family Guy’s use of the footage was transformative in nature, it’s still a bit unfortunate that a giant television show didn’t even think of paying a smaller YouTuber to use his video.
21 There Are Already Better Seth MacFarlane Shows
The styles and sensibilities of Family Guy are pretty well known at this point. However, the driving force behind the show’s success has already made better television programs. American Dad is a fantastic examination and satire of American institutions and social issues. Likewise, The Orville is a wonderful Star Trek parody that recognizes that the original was advocating for a more progressive society since its inception. Sure, no other show has approached Family Guy’s terrific use of cutaway gags, but better versions of the sentiments found in the show are readily available.
20 There Are No Rules Regarding Who Can Understand Stewie
If you’ve watched even a few episodes of Family Guy, you’re probably aware that some characters on the show can understand the infant Stewie and others cannot. Generally, members of the main or supporting cast aren’t able to understand him, except for Brian and eventually Chris. This discrepancy is so noticeable that it has even become a running meta-joke in the show. However, acknowledging this issue doesn’t make it any less of an oversight and this still remains one of the most inconsistent elements in Family Guy’s writing.
19 It’s Still Giving James Woods Work
Actor James Woods appears frequently in Family Guy. This makes Family Guy the only franchise that gives Woods steady work in a significant role, as his promotion of conservative political views and advocation of conspiracy theories have made most production studios hesitant to work with him. Spending a few minutes on the actor’s Twitter will reveal that he has some incredibly troubling political and social views.
18 The Sometimes Changing Status Quo
The progression of time is weird in Family Guy. Some events, like Bonnie Swanson giving birth, are enduring changes in the show while other events, like the destruction of Cleveland Brown’s house, are reset at the end of every episode. Furthermore, Peter holds different jobs for numerous episodes and Brian dates other characters for numerous episodes at a time. It’s nice that the show does try to change things up every now and then, but it’s odd how some events endure and others are quickly undone.
17 All Those Cutaways
Family Guy’s cutaway gags are a big part of the show’s enduring success. The surprise laughs that came from unexpected tangents and departures from an episode’s main story are some of the best in the series. However, these cutaways stopped being surprising after a while, and instead became more formulaic. As Family Guy continued to rely on this style of humor, and as the novelty of cutaways wore off, the overall quality of Family Guy decreased. There are plenty of ways to innovate this style of humor, but Family Guy has yet to try to do that.
16 A Lopsided Writer’s Room
Family Guy is written almost entirely by men. While the contributions of women to the show are notable and substantial, especially that of writer and co-producer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a show as established as Family Guy can now easily have a more diverse pool of writers behind it. In fact, a new perspective take on the show’s style and characters might be exactly what it needs to feel relevant again. However, it seems like the show is more than likely going to keep telling the same kinds of jokes with similar people driving it forward.
15 Stagnating Grown-Up Animation
Family Guy’s success brought with it a lot of stereotypes regarding grown-up-focused animation in America. Unintentionally, it furthered the trend started by The Simpsons and strengthened the idea that animation geared towards adults grown-ups to focus on comedy. While that notion is beginning to change with shows like Netflix’s Castlevania rising to prominence, for more than a decade it seemed like grown-up animation couldn't be anything besides comedic. The almost universal success of Family Guy really slowed down the expansion and experimentation in this medium.
14 A Shallow Voice Acting Pool
Family Guy has a terrific pool of voice actors that continue to bring their A-game to the show more than a dozen seasons later. However, the show also has a rather shallow pool of voice actors and it’s a bit distracting to hear a single actor fill multiple roles in a single scene. Considering the success of Family Guy and the fact that supporting roles can be recorded and submitted remotely, it’s kind of a bummer that Family Guy isn’t providing opportunities for up and coming voice actors to expand their resume.
13 Limited Animation
The animation in Family Guy is pretty rudimentary. This was somewhat forgivable when Seth MacFarlane was doing the majority of the work in the show’s first season. Now that it’s almost unrivaled in its success, the animation quality should be drastically higher than what it is currently. There are numerous scenes where several characters are poised identically to each other and most characters have an incredibly limited range of movement and expression. The only time Family Guy ever fully utilizes the potential of animation is in it zanier moments, which is a waste of the many affordances of the medium.
12 Meta Jokes Are Now The Norm
Family Guy contains a wealth of meta jokes and fourth wall breaking gags that made it feel different than a lot of the other television sitcoms in the early 2000s. However, these kinds of jokes are far more common now than when Family Guy rose to fame. As such, Family Guy’s use of this humor doesn’t differentiate it from other shows like it used to, and now just makes it feel more like the average comedy. Sure it’s funny when Family Guy makes fun of itself, but shows like Community and Man Seeking Woman have simply done it better.
11 People Take It Way Too Seriously
Family Guy is a pretty good T.V. show that’s managed to stay air longer than most others. That’s it. There’s no broader philosophy to Family Guy and it’s not trying to make any pointed arguments outside of the episodes that are clearly about something.
However, Family Guy has several zealots who seem to take the show’s bluest comedy as gospel and use it to justify their own inappropriate behavior. Even if a show can’t completely control who and how people celebrate the program, Family Guy never did much to limit the most toxic members of its audience.
10 Sticking Too Hard To Its Formula
Family Guy rose to fame for its daring sense of humor and tearing down many of the tropes that defined television comedy in the early 2000s. However, once the show reached its peak it stopped evolving and innovating. Rather than trying to reinvent itself, and push new ideas forward once the old ones wore thin, it just rested on what made it popular. This is a shame because a large part of Family Guy’s success stems from the rare chance it has to reinvent itself after being canceled and revived numerous times.
9 It Overstayed Its Welcome
A lot of the problems with Family Guy today stem from it simply being on the air for too long. The show is currently in its 17th season and few shows manage to maintain their quality after such a lengthy run. People’s tastes change over the course of 17 years and it’s exceptionally difficult for a show to maintain an audience over that much time. Family Guy didn’t quit when it was ahead and, while it’s still immensely profitable for those involved, it also means that the show will be remembered as mediocre rather than brilliant.
8 Some Truly Awful Video Games
Family Guy has a really bad record with video games. While licensed and tie-in games tend to be middling at best, the Family Guy games range from awful to utterly forgettable. These titles don't try to do anything interesting with the gaming medium or tell a story that wouldn't work in a T.V. show format. The Family Guy games are obvious cash grabs that fail to entertain a player as much as even the worst episode of the show.
7 Punching Down Humor
Especially in the older episodes, Family Guy often relied on jokes that mocked and belittled marginalized communities. Looking back, a lot of this humor was more problematic than anything else and it will forever be a stain on the show's history. By promoting stereotypes, Family Guy made it easier for broader society to ignore the problems these communities face and minimize their experiences. Even if a lot of shows from the early 2000s featured similar troubling content, it doesn’t make the crummy ideas Family Guy promoted acceptable.
6 Bogging Down Seth MacFarlane
At this point, it’s clear that Seth MacFarlane is one of the most talented voice actors, writers, and performers currently working in television and film. The original Ted is a simply fantastic movie and The Orville is proving to be a compelling piece of television. With the success of these endeavors, it’s a shame that Family Guy took up so much of Seth MacFarlane’s time for so long and that it’s likely what he’ll be remembered for the most. Seth MacFarlane is a sensational creative talent and hopefully someday transcends his first major work.
5 A Newfound Reliance On Topical Humor
A lot of the humor in newer Family Guy episodes use more topical material that relates to ongoing social and political issues. While this isn’t inherently a problem, Family Guy isn’t as well suited for this kind of humor than similar programs like American Dad. Family Guy is way better about pointing out flaws in entertainment than society, so having the show comment on broader cultural issues feels like a bit of a misstep. Especially with the problems in the world being as severe as they are, it really doesn’t feel appropriate for Family Guy to weigh in on things.
4 Lots Of Dropped Storylines
While the numerous cancellations and revivals that Family Guy experienced did give it the chance to reinvent itself, it also forced the show to drop a lot of potential storylines. Running segments like Brian attending therapy and Meg trying to date Kevin Swanson disappeared once the show came back on the air. Sure, the quality of content that was gained more than likely makes up for what was lost, but unfortunately, we may never learn what the original plan for the show was.
3 It Doesn’t Have An Exit Strategy
It’s pretty clear by now that Family Guy doesn’t know how to conclude its long run on television. Ending a show is already difficult, but Family Guy’s level of notoriety only makes that process even more of a challenge. Family Guy fundamentally changed television, and even those who fell off the show hope it ends on a high note. However, it’s pretty much impossible for it to conclude in a way that makes everyone happy, if it even gets a ceremonious and definitive ending at all.
2 The Show Already Knows Exactly What’s Wrong With It
Family Guy is often it’s own biggest critic and the show regularly points out what’s wrong with it. The series has pointed out its own continuity errors, lopsided staff, and limited animation. Even if it is fun to witness Family Guy mocking itself, it doesn’t excuse these problems. If anything its acknowledgment of these issues only makes its slowness to remedy them even more frustrating. Family Guy still has a lot of potential as a show, and until it fixes the problems it’s exceptionally aware of, it’ll remain a shell of its former self.
1 The First Few Seasons Feel Like A Completely Different Show
The first few seasons of Family Guy feel like a completely different show than the one that became incredibly popular and successful as a consequence of being able to reinvent itself. This is both fascinating and frustrating, as it’s impossible to say which is the real version of Family Guy. Is it the one that twists classic sitcom plots or the one that revels in tearing them down? There’s no way to say for sure and the tonal shift between these two versions of the show is nothing short of whiplash-inducing.