What happens when a TV show starts to rely too heavily on the same set of running jokes? In the case of "Family Guy," the show itself turns into a joke, and not a very funny one at that. Despite a one-hour finale event that delivered a few laughs, "Viewer Mail #2 / Internal Affairs" tread far too much familiar ground, a problem that's been plaguing the series for some time now.
There's a tipping point in TV sitcoms where the repeated use of a running joke stops being funny, and just seems lazy and uninspired. And in this hour of television, it seems like Seth MacFarlane and team have run out of ideas, as pointed out by the sharp minds over at The AV Club in their sarcastic headline "Family Guy still has plenty of ideas-- like doing a sequel to an episode based on viewer-submitted story pitches."
If the Viewer Mail concept had been done regularly, it might have seemed more like a tradition (like the Treehouse of Horror on "The Simpsons") However, by re-using an episode idea from 2002, it seemed to viewers like the creative minds behind the show were just grasping at straws. While some of the concepts were funny (the Griffins as British, life from Stewie's perspective), many jokes fell flat.
Another uninspired blast from the past in the one-hour finale event was the return of Ernie, the giant chicken that Peter has battled or interacted with in 11 previous episodes, starting as early as "Da Boom." The fights used to be fan favorites, thanks to their over-the-top choreography and humorous dialogue. But now, at the end of the tenth season, the whole rivalry seems stale. But still, not quite as stale as the frequent plot point of marital infidelity. It's hard to care about Joe and Bonnie's marriage when the show always seems to return to it's own status quo, no matter what happened the episode before.
"Family Guy" isn't the only long-running animated show on Fox to suffer from a late-season slump. As pointed out in past articles, "The Simpsons" is thought by many fans to have begun its decline in its ninth and tenth seasons. Vulture recently compiled a list of latter-day episodes that stand up against early classics, meaning the show has had an uptick in quality in recent years. So if "The Simpsons" can undergo a bit of a renaissance, then there's still hope that "Family Guy" might feel fresh and creative (and maybe even subversive) in Season 11.
All that being said, "Family Guy" is one of the lynchpins of Fox's Animation Domination line-up, and it's notoriously hard to kill this twice-cancelled show. However, if the show keeps declining in quality and creativity, the next cancellation notice it gets could be the one that finally sticks.
- Arts & Entertainment