Seth MacFarlane without question is the current behemoth of animated comedy TV, and recently film, with his debut effort, Ted. Seth has been churning out his own brand of animated TV comedy since 1999 with Family Guy, currently in its 11th season, by no means an easy feat in current TV schedules. The fact that it has been going on for so long, with a few years off air from 2002 – 2005, is a testament to the rabid fan base of the show. However it certainly isn’t a testament to the quality of the comedy, or it’s much loved creator.
I will admit that I was obsessed with Family Guy over ten years ago, and constantly berated my friends that it has replaced The Simpsons as the best cartoon comedy on TV. I imported posters from America and personally ordered the DVD into stock at my local entertainment retailer who had never heard of the show. I was adamant to parade it to my friends and family and for them to watch a few episodes to win them over, and it never seemed to fail, as it was genuinely funny and original. Once the show was cancelled I was in a fit of rage at the stupidity of Fox and the general public for ignoring such comedic brilliance. I flew the ‘Seth MacFarlane is a genius’ flag for a couple of years, and that is until the show was revived thanks to the strong DVD sales. I now cringe at my MacFarlane loving fanboy ways, as his shows are a shadow of their former selves.
Family Guy returned to our screens in 2005 and it was never the same, but managed to grow from strength to strength over the years. The power of Seth MacFarlane grew as big as a mountain of feces from a diarrhoeal Godzilla, crumbling under its own weight but constantly churning out more crap to cover the ageing cracks from the general public. Fox were now putty in his hands and Seth would have truckloads of money thrown at him once he pitched a new show. American Dad came along followed a few years later by the Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show. Seth is prominent in all three shows that currently run their seasons simultaneously. The humour is identical throughout the trio which is a lazy, dull and a creatively flawed way to use the power and praise he currently holds at Fox, and it’s infuriating.
I’m sure Seth is a nice man and would be fun to have a beer with, I admire his work ethic but he has spread himself too thin, yet people still sing his praises for everything he does and ignore the repeated jokes, style and ideas that he gives the thumbs up to for his shows. Seth has a formula and as a lover of the comedy genre, if I see that formula repeated over and over, it bores and irritates me. A staple of his formulaic approach is to make inanimate objects have a voice, which is usually his own, and a personality. Brian, Roger, Ted, and Tim Bear – every single one of these characters drinks and smokes something to some degree, not to mention the similarities to Stewie and Rallo and various other pairings from his shows. South Park also did a stellar job at pointing out the workings of Family Guy, but I would rather you watch that episode than me explain it.
Last summer I couldn’t move an inch without seeing some form of advertising and possibly paid media reviews for Ted as being the best comedy of the year/in years and I couldn’t believe what I was reading and hearing. Viewing the trailer alone I could tell it was just going to be a rehash of jokes from his hat-trick of TV shows and pumping the nostalgia well for humour. I gritted my teeth and watched Ted to see if I was going to be proved wrong and I only managed to back up my original thoughts even more.
A few examples of the so called fantastic comedy in Ted include a scene where the little teddy bear almost crashes a car and then unleashes the line “That’s my bad, I was sending a tweet”. It is a disgrace and in no way should humour be attempted to be found in that sentence. The fight scene featuring Wahlberg and Ted has been used repeated by Seth in Family Guy with Stewie battering Brian, and the numerous bouts of extended violence starring Peter and the giant chicken; yet people in the cinema lap it up with howls of laughter. I understand if people label Seth a comedian and this joke is a trademark, but comedians wouldn’t dare to repeat one of their much loved jokes across three different DVD specials; people would notice and call them lazy, but somehow Seth manages to Neo his way out of such criticisms. Hey look, a nostalgic reference, I hope you’re laughing.
Ted’s drinking and sexual habits are ripped straight from the Brian Griffin playbook and not to mention Seth’s insistence for also making a teddy bear swear should have never been developed further than a two minute internet sketch on his Cavalcade of Comedy webisodes. MacFarlane likes to provide many a voice to his creations but there seems to have been no attempt whatsoever to create an original accent for his potty mouthed bear, and it was simply his Peter Griffin voice. It reeks of sheer laziness or attention seeking greed as he could have hired another actor to provide Ted’s vocals to deliver the many unfunny lines he spouts. Ted is just another ugly stamp on the current Hollywood comedy envelope. I thank the comedy ghost of Leslie Nielsen, (who is probably turning in his grave at Seth’s almost scene for scene thievery of the disco segment from Airplane!) for Seven Psychopaths; otherwise I would have had a laugh-less 2012 at the cinema. I could rant on about Ted a bit more, but I will move on. I did my best not to touch on the awkwardly embarrassing thunder song that made people erupt with laughter, another reason I was upset the Mayan calendar theories were proved wrong.
The other ingredient to Seth’s brainwashing success is what I consider the laziest form of comedy and that is his ball-busting bear hug on nostalgia. The nostalgic meter is forcefully pushing through the roof of any of Seth’s works, which is a sign of unoriginal writing as you bring in someone else’s creation or fond memory of a character from film or TV from yesteryear to get a joke across. Seth litters his empire of works with this lazy writing, the Star Wars cross-breeds are a prime example of this. The overuse of the sun-bed abusing Flash Gordon in Ted are just a grain in the syrupy sand of his acidic regurgitated pop-culture covered beach, located just behind complacent cove. The fact that he can’t derive humour from the characters and situations he creates without a pop culture reference or celebrity appearance is easy filler to beef up the length of an episode, otherwise his story-based jokes would carry it to about ten minutes. I find this a shame as the first 3 seasons of Family Guy were very well written, with no heavy reliance on these interruptions.
Seth records albums while also touring America to perform concerts and readings with the Family Guy cast, and he is also hosting the upcoming Oscars in February. The man only has 8 fingers and two thumbs but with the help of his toes he has body parts in about 21 pies at once, and I don’t even want to say what the other digit in one of the pies is, but for nostalgic purposes I will just say he must be doing a Jason Biggs. Just because you’re capable of doing something, it doesn’t mean you’re remotely good at it, but that doesn’t seem to stop Seth and his media bulldozer, probably being driven by Bob the Builder, but even Seth might not find that character old enough to be worth any nostalgic praise. It is his persistence to get involved in all mediums that is affecting his quality of work and if he concentrated all his efforts on one show, I’m sure he might be able to make me and his other critics laugh again.
At the time of writing Seth is also getting ready to star in his second written film, A Million Ways To Die In The West, that he describes as a Blazing Saddles type movie. Someone should tell Seth that Blazing Saddles was made, and it is very good, so don’t bother trying to one up it. That’s like a media student taking the time and effort to make a fan film based on Batman, because evidently Christopher Nolan didn’t do a good enough job.
Seth has also announced he is working on his 5th animated series, which is a ridiculous amount of things to take on board at once. There’s no question that Seth has the lion’s share of the animated comedy audience but he shouldn’t. Archer, the new Futurama and even some of the latest Simpsons episodes have been outshining all of his. If Seth had any sense he would kill off The Cleveland Show at least, source out another comedy, animated or live, and become a producer and let fresh writing talent shine. If everything he touches turns to gold, then why not find a genuine piece of comedy talent from somewhere else instead of milking his own below par ideas. American comedies could do with a few more big shows once 30 Rock and The Office end in a few months, but I suppose the return of Arrested Development will fill that void and the upcoming Legit starring Jim Jefferies has the potential to become a sleeper hit.
Seth is quoted about the three year absence of Family Guy as saying it was beneficial because animated shows do not normally have hiatuses, and towards the end of their seasons, “…you see a lot more sex jokes and [bodily function] jokes and signs of a fatigued staff that their brains are just fried”. Yet, he proceeds to run three shows, write films and all the other bells and whistles he has his mitts on and not notice their decline in quality. The media and general public are much to blame as they talk up his every move, meaning he thinks we want more when I think we really, really don’t. I want originality, and I think he should let his ship sail into the sunset as he has had his time at the top and it’s time to move on, or at least take a break for five years.
Do you agree that Seth MacFarlane is overrated? Or is he just a comedic genius? Let us know in the comments below
This article was first posted on January 10, 2013