Seth MacFarlane is a hack and I'm cancelling the garrison

That's right, I can't do it any more. No more Family Guy garrison.

So have you seen this cartoon?

In 1995, Seth MacFarlane, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design developed this cartoon as his thesis film. Except for the live action segments, Seth made all of this on his own. And already, you can begin to recognize elements that would putrefy into early Family Guy: an animated sitcom aspiring for something between the Flintstones and All in the Family that establishes itself as something like our world with our pop culture and politics, a talking dog that is otherwise treated like a person and a superego for Larry to bounce his thoughts off of, and of course, cutaways to tangents to serve as jokes. Some of the jokes in this episode even made it to air in Family Guy!

The Life of Larry would be followed up by Larry and Steve, which Seth developed after Life of Larry got him hired at Hanna-Barbera. Seth worked on a couple of Hanna-Barbera shows for a couple of years before executives at Fox saw both shorts and you know what happens next.

I watched a lot of Family Guy growing up. My family watched the reruns on Adult Swim, and later we would watch on Fox. I liked the show less and less as a teenager, but when I was a kid, something connected with me.

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The very first joke in Family Guy is this nonsense Brady Bunch joke and I have nothing to say about it; I had never seen the Brady Bunch when I saw this episode as a kid, and now that I know what the Brady Bunch is, this bit still doesn't make me laugh. Family Guy isn't a show you recommend someone to start from the very beginning and it feels really weird and off at the very start. The early characterizations are different, the voices are done differently, and even the storytelling feels like its trying to be more of a wackier version of a sitcom. None of the satirical bite that Family Guy would later be known for is in this episode.

I picked up an interest in reading silver age comics after I reconnected with comic books in general a couple of years ago. I wanted to see where the medium and the characters that rule pop culture with an iron fist had come from, and the growth of writing and storytelling within the particularly weird constraints of corporately and editorially controlled superhero stories. And specifically, I wanted to read the books that would come to inspire the animated Justice League TV show that got me interested in superheroes and comic books in the first place.

And those early issues are rough. The strong characterization that made the animated Justice League so amazing is completely absent; the characters are all people who have superpowers and fight bad guys and monologue about the bad guys disabling their superpowers. Only Green Arrow, of all people, gets some characterization and personality in these early books, and compared to the Justice League stories we see today, these early books are almost unrecognizable.

Imagine for a minute that it's 1963, and you are six years old. You are still learning how to read, so your parents give you ten cents to pick up a comic book from the drugstore. You walk five miles along the country road because it's 1963, and when you get there, you get a comic with what appears to be an alien playing chess with some circus performers. You begin reading, and you are transfixed. A half-dozen fantastical characters, each from their own fantastical pocket of this universe, are adventuring and solving mysteries and fighting villains and helping each other out of jams. The simple illustrations and the stiff dialogue and the clumsy deus ex machina ending don't impact your enjoyment; you don't see any of the seams, and instead, you want to dive deeper into this universe.

A decade later, you're helping make and distribute fan zines. You interview the writers and artists over the phone and at conventions, and you meet a lot of like minded people like yourself. You all talk about which characters could fight which, you compare their superpowers and their histories, and you talk about all the different characters and how they come together. You talk about what would happen if the Joker came to Metropolis, or if Superman had to fill in for Batman because he was brainwashed by Brainiac, or what would happen if all of the worlds in the multiverse came under attack by a common threat. In the decades to come, you and your kind become deeply ingrained in the comic industry and bring those stories you always imagined to life. The industry changes based on your whims, and superheroes make a LOT of money in part to the ideas your generation has introduced.

And you look back at the early issues of JLA, and the Justice League has been captured by aliens running out of a circus fun house.

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(Hulu's recording of this episode is awful and flickery for some reason. Apologies in advance; I think most of the early episodes are like this.)

I had never seen All in the Family or understood what it was about when I was a kid. I didn't understand the Family Guy opening sequence in the least until I was at least 15 or 16, and I wouldn't appreciate the television history and the statement on Seth MacFarlane's behalf that comes with styling a lot of the show after All in the Family. All I knew was that Family Guy was the show where Peter Griffin would drink and talk about movies and his friend would say giggity when I was 9 years old, and that was enough to hook me.

Family Guy makes a lot of money nowadays. Compared to what I've seen of recent Simpsons (which granted was a few years ago but still), Family Guy is consistently fairly watchable, and has even gotten a little bit better recently. I don't know how many more years the show has; I don't think Disney will be eager to keep it around when it's negotiating time.

So let's treat Family Guy like I want to reinvent it the way I saw it when I was nine years old. When I watch early Family Guy now, I know it's a rough product that really takes a while to start spinning its wheels. And I would argue that the show doesn't really start to find its footing and pursue some more interesting ideas until after the reboot. But let's look at it like we're a child watching a show meant for people two to three times our age, and try to make some sense out of it in a very specific way: by making charts of the characters as we see them, so that they can be reintegrated into stories and build a continuity later.

By the way, unless explicitly stated to exist within Quahog or as part of the characters' lives, cutaway gag characters won't be counted for this or otherwise I'd be spending my entire life on the first 7 episode season. We want to capture the universe of Quahog here, not make a terrible fanon wiki. Additionally, background characters don't count unless they have a speaking role or some significant relevance. We basically want people to be voiced, named, or referred to or spoken to directly by a main character. In this episode, we see God show up and have a line of dialogue; while I would normally dismiss that as a cutaway, he does pop up again later and interact with Jesus, who himself interacts with the main cast multiple times, so I am cheating a little by including him. Same goes for Cleveland, who we briefly glimpse but don't see interact with the family or speak.

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So basically the story of the episode is that Peter is hung over at work, and sleeps there, despite Lois telling him not to. He gets fired from his job due to negligence and gets on welfare, but he ends up getting $150,000 a week for it because of a clerical error, so he decides to live up as a rich person before Lois catches him. This episode premiered after the Super Bowl, so of course the Super Bowl is worked into the plot, as Peter flies a blimp over it to drop his money on the field. Peter is arrested for this, but he does let go, but... I don't think the episode really addresses the scamming the government thing?

Anyways I ended up having to cut the different categories of characters up into like ten for this episode alone, and I can see adding at least two or three more categories in the future. Look under the spoiler drop to see how I'm going to split things up. I had to use MS Paint because every "Family Tree" generator and flowchart tool I could find is expensive, crap, or both. This show doesn't deserve better.


Next post won't be another essay explaining my rationale, but instead just a quick look back at the other six episodes of Season 1, along with character chart updates. And of course, as we go, I want to try to explore the overall feeling of the universe that the show takes place in, and how that shifts as the episodes go by and new elements are added to the Family Guy septic tank.
100% pure gamer 100%
Glad to see somebody else acknowledging that Chris is the actual biggest Nothing character of the Griffin family
that IS confusing, why are there so many clevelands

i liked the wirteup about comic books. interesting comparison, i didnt watch family guy that much when i was younger but i definitely did find what i did see of it then funnier than i would now. hell i actually remember going home after seeing my first episode of it and looking up how it started and being super confused by the summary writeup of this very episode, and that was when i learned wikis are not a substitute for watching things or particularly useful for anything other than the most basic information possible since you miss every bit of context and execution. if only others could learn that lesson so quickly lol

i appreciate the branching out into more than just the family tree, that makes this significantly more interesting. i imagine family guy has a LOT of characters that'll fill this out over time even with your rules.

the life of larry thing was interesting to learn too. it's fascinating to see any given oldass concept 'pilot' that would turn into something later, like how rick and morty technically started is... something. you can generally feel the familiar aspects yet its all so alien
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do you think Seth MacFarlane put Jerry in the first episode because he thought Seinfeld was his competition

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