Seth MacFarlane

Family Guy‘s ninth season has just been released on DVD in the UK and to celebrate its release, Seth MacFarlane, series creator and voice of Peter Griffin, sat down with us for a brief chat about the series, the DVD release, and the forthcoming season…

Do you feel like sometimes you save the best stuff for the DVDs, but you are contractually obliged to give the network something?

Sometimes. I think I’ve heard it said that the airings of the show are now just commercials for the DVD releases, but the power of the network is still pretty substantial, so much so that it would be financially impossible to just release the show on DVD. I think at some point there will be a set-up where television programmes are viewed by downloading them at your convenience.

Did you ever think when you started Family Guy that you would have three shows running, you’d be doing on-stage musicals, you’d be tackling Star Wars and that you’d be taking over the world?

Yeah, I’m just waiting for people to get tired of it so I can get some frigging rest. You know, it’s a show that lends itself to the exploration of a lot of different genres of storytelling and we’ve never wanted to rest on our laurels and tell the same type of story over and over every season. To me, that’s when you start really taking heavy risks – this could potentially ruin the show – but at least we went out fresh.

Can you tell us a little about the creative process? What goes through your mind when you are coming up with ideas for the show?

Well, it’s really a melting pot process: we all throw 100 different ideas at the wall and we see what each other responds to, and then we pick the best of the best and make a show. It’s a lot of collaboration.

What hot and controversial topics are coming up this year?

Well, there’s the abortion episode which gets released on DVD this year. And only on DVD. But what are our big issue shows? Oh, the Amish. Stewie and Brian and the rest of the family get stranded in an Amish community. Peter finds himself in AA, so we take a shot at Alcoholics Anonymous and really how silly it is and how unnecessary. That’s a joke. Also, Lois becomes a boxer. There’s a nice little smorgasboard of stories.

Anything else? Is it true Lois is getting into porn?

Yeah, we find out that Lois in fact did a porno. What else we got? We’ve got another Stewie and Brian roadshow in there somewhere, when Stewie and Brian go to the North Pole, as Stewie decides he wants to kill Santa Claus because Santa left before Stewie got a chance to sit on his lap at the mall. It’s an hour-long extravaganza that has three pretty elaborate musical numbers. It’s a pretty epic, big budget episode.

Are you having more than one double episode this season then?

We actually have three pretty sizeable shows coming up this year. The Return Of The Jedi, the Christmas episode, and our season premiere, which is my personal favourite which is a murder mystery. We constructed it as a real murder mystery, and then we threw in a bunch of jokes. I think it will be something that people will think is funny but at the end of the day, they will be wondering how the hell is it going to end.

What can you tell me about the upcoming Jedi episode?

It’s really long. It’s really long and it was a ton of work, so hopefully it’s good because if it’s not, my God, we nearly killed ourselves for nothing. That will be coming out on DVD.

What’s next after you’ve done Jedi? What franchise is next for the Family Guy treatment?

I think it will be a little while before we do another franchise of this type. Mainly because there really is no-one else quite like LucasFilm in as far as allowing us to do it. Imagine doing a show that takes all year to do, then on top of it doing these movies. It’s the most brutal thing in the world. We may tackle <Indiana Jones>, who knows? But we’re going to take a little bit of a break before we do that.

Do you ever think you’ve gone too far?

Yeah, but not recently. I think in the early days there was concern from time to time that we had gone further than we should have gone, but those were isolated cases, but I think at this point, it has become a line that we walk with some confidence.

Why do the Griffins love to sing so much?

The animated medium lends itself, and is perhaps the only medium left to television that really still lends itself, to heavily produced musical numbers. I like them. I pick a style of music that is absent from today’s culture and with the size of orchestra that we use for the show, which is sometimes up to 80 players, it seemed like a waste not to do that.

Do you think it softens the blow when you are dealing with a serious subject with a show tune?

Yeah, yeah, if you’re singing about Down’s syndrome, or you’re singing about AIDS, or you’re singing about something that might seem to some people something that you wouldn’t want to joke about, it does come across a little more innocuous, a little more okay, when it is sung to a show tune.

Would you ever actually cross the line and appear on Broadway yourself?

Believe it or not, that opportunity has presented itself, on at least two occasions, but I have just not had the time. And I just don’t think I would take home as much of an income, after taxes. It would be a blast, but these shows just aren’t going to produce themselves, are they? And the people seem to have an insatiable appetite that must be fed.

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