'Family Guy' continues to push the television envelope

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

LOS ANGELES -- The cast of the Fox Network animated comedy "Family Guy" has just completed a reading of the script for the 100th episode in front of a group of television critics. That show will air later this year but you are going to have to wait for the sixth season DVD to hit streets this time next year to hear a lot of what they said.

Profanity is as thick as paparazzi around Britney Spears. And there are a few topics -- let's say, jokes about abortion - that have been toned down from the original script.

"I think the abortion one was about eight times as long," says series creator and main voice talent Seth MacFarlane. "The swearing you'll only see on the DVD. Since that's become such a big part of `Family Guy,' if we bleep something for TV, we'll let it slide on the DVD."

The fifth season DVD hit stores Tuesday. The new season of "Family Guy," that will feature the 100th show later this year, begins at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday on Fox. It is a one-hour parody of "Star Wars."

"Family Guy" has always been a show that pushes television limits when it comes to what this family, a clan so dysfunctional they make "The Simpsons" look like "The Waltons," says and does. MacFarlane talks about that balancing act and other aspects of the show in the following:

Question: Which is funnier: comedy that offends people or when it doesn't offend?

"The thing that I try to do with `Family Guy' is to kind of have this balance between the classic and the edgy. You know, we do a lot of poop jokes, but at the same time, we use a 45-piece orchestra every week with a full string section.

"We don't try to shock for shock's sake. If something is just shocking and not funny, then we'll cut it out. And we have these table reads every week in which we have a very good cross section of artists and people from the outside and writers, and, the studio network is there. No one is shy about gasping in horror if we have crossed the line, and so it's a very good barometer."

Do you feel any pressure each year to change the pop references to attract a younger audience?

"We're not just trying to do `80s references. We had an episode recently where Peter (voiced by MacFarlane) and Quagmire (also voiced by MacFarlane) are both at an opera, and they're sitting very far away from each other, and they're texting each other throughout the whole performance. We do try and make sure that we are kept up-to-date, although there's still some Bob Hope references that neither of those generations are going to get."

"South Park" is another animated series that pushes the line of good taste. Are you a fan of that show?

"Yes, I am a fan of `South Park.' I think that show is very funny, and I think that the movie was hysterical. You know, I remember first seeing that "Santa-vs.-Jesus" thing that they put out, and I don't think I've ever laughed as hard in my life as I did at that thing."

The Federal Communications Commission is often the subject of your DVD commentaries. Have you had any feedback from them?

"Not really. I mean, we did have a letter of inquiry from the FCC regarding the FCC episode, but the feedback that we got back from them was that they actually thought it was funny, which surprised the hell out of me and gives me a little bit of hope."

How different is it reading the script in front of an audience?

"It's always really so different. We just got back from doing a show in Montreal for the comedy festival. You had 2,000 drunk people in their 20s who were just laughing at stage directions."

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