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‘Family Guy’: THR’s 1999 Review

On Jan. 31, 1999, Fox introduced Peter Griffin and Co. to America as Seth MacFarlane’s animated Family Guy series premiered. The show, canceled after its third season, was then revived and is now a broadcast staple in its 22nd season. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:

If one is good and two are better, then surely three, four and five can’t miss. Or so the thinking goes at Fox, home of The Simpsons, King of the Hill and three midseason primetime animated comedies. Indeed, the third show, The PJs, is off to a good start, and the fourth, Family Guy, shows similar promise. (The fifth, Futurama, is not due for a couple of months.)

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Family Guy is bright, entertaining and often witty and warm. In its post-Super Bowl slot Sunday, the show will receive high exposure. Viewers who develop an appetite for it, though, have to wait until March for the next episode.

In some ways, Family Guy seems a curious choice for the show’s title, almost as if The Simpsons had instead been named “Homer Simpson.” Al though Dad, Peter Griffin, is central to the first episode, you get the feeling other characters will be just as prominent in succeeding stories.

Peter continues the tradition of cartoon dads as irresponsible, self-centered, bumbling, well-intentioned oafs. His wife, Lois, like Marge Simpson before her, is sensible, reasonable, well-organized, nonplussed and supportive.

The Griffins have three children, two of them more or less normal — teenagers Meg and her younger brother Chris. The third is Stewie, the baby, portrayed as a diabolical and violent genius torn between the desire to execute his unsuspecting parents and the realization that he needs these drones to do his bidding.

Then there’s Brian, the family dog and the conscience of the clan.

Integrating these diverse characters into a story can’t be nearly as easy as 25-year-old Seth MacFarlane, the creator and exec producer, makes it look.

In the premiere, Peter is fired from his job as a safety inspector at a toy company, applies for welfare and cashes a welfare check mistakenly written for much more than he should have received. It’s a clever story, at least until it reaches an abrupt, improbable ending.

The show has laughs, and lots of them, poking fun at targets as diverse as prison perversion, Hitler’s inferiority and football announcers. At times, it seems almost too diverse, as if the gags were driving the story line.

Although there is nothing particularly memorable about the animation, the selection of voices is praiseworthy. MacFarlane is amazing as Peter, baby Stewie, Brian the Dog and practically every extra. Alex Borstein has Lois down perfectly. — Barry Garron, originally published on Jan. 28, 1999.

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