Family Guy and The Simpsons: The New Television Crossover Era
Ron Seifried | On 30, Sep 2014D’oh! Or should I say giggity giggity giggity? The long anticipated Family Guy-Simpsons crossover episode was a huge hit on Fox as expected, and will probably start yet another franchise trend. The Family Guy premiere received a 74% ratings increase from the previous year, and delivered the highest ratings in the coveted 18-49 age range. The Griffins arrived in Springfield as part of a big animated doubleheader that included the death of an old and beloved character on The Simpsons premiere, bringing in 8.4 million viewers for the night. The Simpsons received a 34% increase from 2013’s premiere episode. This once in a lifetime event (if executive producers Steve Callaghan and Rich Appel are to be believed) gave the Family Guy creative team almost unprecedented access to the Springfield set. With some restrictions, including the continuing mystery of the exact location of Springfield, the Griffins car is stolen leading them to the predictable mashup. Stewie: “Springfield, eh? What state?” Brian: “I can’t imagine we’re allowed to say.” The Griffins mosey on through downtown Springfield under The Simpsons theme music, careful to stay away from “hepatitis-skinned citizens” before being assisted by local Homer Simpson emerging from the shadows at the local Kwik-E-Mart. A “erotically” disturbing wet T-shirt car wash, complete with Def Leopard soundtrack, and Stewie’s dry attempt at rape humor are the edgy high or low points (depending on who you ask) between these parallel universes. The all-too-obvious pair’s broke off into their own segments. Lisa encouraging Meg to look deep in her soul for some unfound skill to the wool-cap wearing “mistake” for some much needed confidence and Bart mentoring Stewie on his quaint, archaic terrorizing skills delivered the emotional bonding of sincerity rarely seen in the Family Guy. But the lost adventures of Chris and Brian walking Santa’s Little Helper and the vortex of unfunny in the Lois/Marge partnership helped slow the episode to a crawl. This left the buddy duo of Homer and Peter to salvage the mashup, which at times was erratic and forced. The Family Guy ‘s best known feature is the cutaway to a world random pop culture references. The elaborate World War I bi-plane battle included Fox’s other animated series Bob’s Burgers and the cancelled spinoff The Cleveland Show was a perfect setup in an otherwise imperfect episode. We were treated to the long gestating nod to the Family Guy “rip-off” of The Simpsons with the revelation that Quahog’s Pawtucket beer is a copy of Springfield’s Duff beer. An intellectual property lawsuit culminates in a courtroom drama with Judge Fred Flintstone presiding, the true pioneer of prime time animated sitcom. All the show was missing at this point was a nod to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden. Stewie’s sadomasochist torturing (made complete with a clown painting) of Bart’s personal bully Nelson may have gone too far for the folks in Springfield. But Stewie wanted to impress his admittedly older male role model, who revealed he was actually 25 years old and not 8. Disappointed at Bart’s rejection in the end, Stewie is left sobbing in his bedroom in a touching tribute to his yellow-skinned mentor. The comparisons were clear; Family Guy is a racier, politically incorrect version of The Simpsons. But the same tired jokes do not fit comfortably between the two worlds at times. The seven minute bout between Homer and Peter was a bit long, even for these two shows. The bit with Homer throwing Emmy awards at Peter, deflecting them with the classic quote “Hey, no fair, I don’t have any of those,” may give pompous Simpsons fans some pride, but the show has definitely run its course. The Simpsons overweight comic book guy delivered the best assessment at the conclusion of Homer & Peter’s fight: “Worst chicken fight ever!” In the end, the one-hour episode should have been edited down to 30 minutes. The show did not live up to the hype and the jokes were strongest in the first half hour. But the stage has been set. The crossover was a rating bonanza and TV executives are already scrambling around their white boards analyzing potential franchise mashups to boost ratings. But in the end, the reality of quality programming may give away to over blown hype than an memorable viewing experience. The “Golden Age of Television” as some like to call this era.