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Another Interview with Seth MacFarlane

Posted: 12/06/2003

I had another chance to chat with Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. With strong sales of the series on DVD, and great ratings on Cartoon Network, there's been talk that the show will return to TV. The possibility that there is life after cancellation due to strong DVD sales makes this the biggest story for TV shows on DVD.

Also, on Oct. 22nd, I had the please of meeting Seth at theĀ Video Store Magazine's TV-DVD Conference. He's one of the nicest guys and I'm glad he's having such a run of good luck. Seth and I talked about Family Guy returning, as well as the new show he's working on, American Dad.


Seth MacFarlaneSo, lots of stuff going on with Family Guy, huh?

Yeah, yeah, it's really starting to come together. I expect to know something final in the next few days, and it's looking very, very optimistic.

How did you feel when the show got cancelled? How do they tell you, "Seth, you don't have a show on our network anymore"?

They said "we have decided not to move forward with episodes of the Family Guy." I was still under a contract so it wasn't like I was being popped out, I still had another year-and-a-half to 2 years on my contract at the time, and they made it clear that they wanted me to develop a new pilot for them, so it wasn't like, "thanks and see you later." I did a live-action pilot in between then and now and came close to getting it picked up, and I was working on a new animated pilot at the same time which is looking very optimistic, so I'll know a lot by the end of next week.

Last time we spoke you were talking about some animated features...

Yeah, the feature stuff has sort-of been put on hold for the moment just because of all the stuff happening with the television series. So there's nothing new to report there. There are a couple of projects that I'm really excited about and I'm trying to figure out how to arrange my schedule to allow myself to do them. There's a lot going on; something's going to have to give.

I guess a lot of this talk of Family Guy coming back has to do with the sales of the DVDs, right?

Yeah, the combination of the DVD sales and the Cartoon Network airings.

The show was what, the highest ranked airing of a show in the history of the (Cartoon) network, right?

Correct, and the DVD, volume 1, is the number one TV DVD seller of the year, and the number four of all time (behind Simpsons 1 & 2 and Sopranos first season), and it's continuing to climb and it's reached a point where it was kind of an obvious thing for them (to revive the series). They didn't expect it anymore than I did, and when it happened they said, "Let's take advantage of this."

Well, I expected it. (Seth Laughs) I saw it coming, I built my website around the Family Guy DVDs, in the hope that they would be released.

That's wonderful, we need more stuff like that.

Family Guy and Kids in the Hall were the two shows I wanted.

Another great show.

Kids in the Hall is shipping today. I was a consultant on the set.

Very cool!

This is the first time something like this has happened, where a show is gone and now possibly brought back. Did you think it was gone for good?

I did, yeah. I thought that it was possible that it would surface again in some other form. In the form of a direct to DVD property or a special, but I never thought it would be back in production as a series; it's unheard of and I believe completely unprecedented. For a series to be cancelled and then put back into production by the same studio, it's never happened before. It's kinda nice to be the first.

I'm assuming that the direct-to-DVD movie is probably gone now, right?

We have a way to do it. We're toying with the idea of doing something to air, but also to be released on DVD. Possibly a three part episode of Family Guy that would air, and then connect together with new footage - that we would have to cut for time from the televised version - to get a new DVD release out in stores, rather than have to wait for the next 25 episodes.

Which is rumored to be January, 2005?

I believe so, or December, 2004. We're looking at what we can do in the interim, to keep the excitement going. There's a lot of new merchandise on its way out. The licensing department has made this thing a priority again. It's all coming back.

That's just great. Are we going to see Family Guy action figures?

I believe so, if all goes well...I think that's on its way.

By the sounds of it, the return of Family Guy could be much bigger than when it first aired.

I think so. Obviously that Super Bowl airing was huge, but I think this is going to be bigger. It's has all this time to build an audience, and coupled with the buzz that will be generated from it being a cancelled show that is put back into production because of the post-cancellation popularity. It's a good story. The history of the show has really become incredible. Someone should write a book about this....in fact, maybe I will.

I would hope that they're going to give you a decent time slot the second time around.

Yeah, I would think that they would. I don't think we'll be put on Thursday nights again.

Hey, Friends will be off the air.

Yeah, even if we are, we're coming in there with a much bigger fan base. It's not like its a new show. Who knows where they'll put us. I hope it's not Thursday nights, and we don't know yet if it'll even be on Fox. It may be on Fox with a second airing on Cartoon Network, or go straight to Cartoon Network. There are a number of possibilities, none of which will affect the production of the show. It'll be the same show.

So you're going to have the same people coming back?

As many as we can. If we can't get some back we'll just bring on some new people like we did at the beginning of the third season and it really didn't hurt us. I think that some of those third season shows were the best ones we ever did, and we basically had to build the staff up again from scratch, and I think that tells you that there are a hell of a lot of good writers out there. Good writers can adapt to animation even if they haven't worked on an animated show before. If a writer is enthusiastic, and every one of ours has been, then you get good results.

What about the voice talents? Have you been talking to Seth Green and Mila?

He's been off doing a movie, I haven't spoken to Mila, but I have spoken to Alex who plays Lois. She's on board. Seth and Mila are just the most wonderful people to work with. They bent over backwards to help out where they could on the DVD releases. At one point I called Mila at 9:00 at night and she was in bed and had been working difficult hours, and I asked if there was any way she could come down to the studio and do some commentary. She got in the car and drove 40 mins to Santa Monica to do this for us. They are just such terrific people. We're so lucky to have them, and there's no doubt in my mind that they'll be back.

Tell me a little bit about American Dad, because that's the other pilot that you're working on now.

American Dad is sort of a Family Guy meets All in the Family show. Where Family Guy is a very pop culture orientated show, American Dad is going to be a bit more politically satirical; socially and culturally satirical. It's about this mid-level CIA employee (Stan) who is a really right-wing loudmouth and his daughter, who is an extremely left-wing loudmouth, and their family. There's a couple of oddball characters in the vein of Brian and Stewie. We have an alien named Roger who Stan rescued from Area 51, and who is now living with him and his family. It's drawn in the truest possible sense as far as the accounts and pictures that you see of the humanoid aliens with the almond eyes. The only difference is that it can't leave the house, so it just sits on the couch all day, drinking wine, smoking and watching daytime TV. It's a combination of some grounded characters and some not-so-grounded characters. I think Family Guy fans will certainly, I'm guessing, respond very well to this show.

I think Family Guy fans love you as well.

Well, they seem to. God bless them.

We rally behind you, Seth.

Yup, yup, and I can't thank you guys enough.

So you're going to be able to do two shows at once?

It's going to be a challenge to say the least, but it's one that I couldn't be happier to take on. I've had a nice little vacation, because there hasn't been a whole lot going on over the past year, and I'm anxious to get back into this full-force. It's going to be a tremendous, tremendous amount of work, but it's what I love to do and we'll do it somehow.

Are we going to see any other shows that you've been involved in come out on DVD?

Yeah, I dunno. Do you mean Gilmore Girls? Possibly...maybe Johnny Bravo. It's possible...Cartoon Network is starting to release some of their Adult Swim stuff on DVD so hopefully the rest of it won't be too far behind. Powerpuff Girls is out there already.

So if Johnny Bravo comes out, you'll do a commentary on that, if they ask?

If they ask, sure.

You know I'm making calls after this to say, "Hey, if Johnny Bravo is coming out, Seth will do commentary!"

That's what my mother does. She takes information that I give her and then blows it way, way out of proportion. It's alright Gord, I'm used to it.

I'm just so happy for you. Seems like everything is working out.

Well, I just love this medium, and the thought of doing two programs is exciting. We'll see if kinda takes off.

When Family Guy comes back, do you picture yourself doing an episode that's based around a TV show that gets cancelled, but sells lots of DVDs and comes back?

We have about five scripts that are ready to go, that we need to do first for time's sake. I think in the first few minutes of the first one, we'll make some reference to all this.

The fans will love that. I hope to hear that things are a "go" with the show.

Yeah, I should hear soon.

Thanks again Seth!

You're welcome, take care.

If you don't already have them, show your support by picking up Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the show.


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