While the long-running The Simpsons has been occasionally honored with animation-specific Emmys, Fox’s Family Guy is the first animated comedy to be nominated for best overall comedy series since ABC’s The Flintstones — and that was in 1961.
NEW YORK (AP) — More than most other Emmy categories, the nominations for best comedy series emerge as a clash of disparate contenders.
With the announcement of the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards Thursday, a familiar, knotty question rears its head again: Just what kind of comedy is fit to be honored above the rest when Emmy time rolls around?
Maybe it should be a multi-camera sitcom such as CBS'”How I Met Your Mother,” whose format takes its cue from “I Love Lucy” more than half-a-century ago. Or what about more cinematic, edgier half-hours such as HBO’s “Entourage” and Showtime’s “Weeds,” where a sexy, middle-class widow tries to maintain her family’s lifestyle by dealing drugs?
The quirky, not-for-everyone-by-design “Flight of the Conchords” has its clutch of admirers on HBO — which dares to twist the half-hour comedy form into something truly different, almost studiously amateurish and refreshingly so.
And NBC has scored with a pair of job comedies that deftly turn their respective workplaces (a paper distribution plant on “The Office” and backstage at a make-believe weekly TV comedy on “30 Rock”) to furnish an opportunity for zany clashes and sophisticated banter.
And then, as this year’s final nomination for best comedy series, comes a surprise: Fox’s “Family Guy.”
It’s a welcome surprise to any “Family Guy” fan, who may rightly feel that “Family Guy” isn’t just the funniest show on the air but, during its own comedy, trashes much of the comedy around it (one throwaway line has househusband Peter Griffin cautioned against further mention of George Lopez, explaining, “It only perpetuates the stereotype that he’s funny”).
While the long-running “The Simpsons” has been occasionally honored with animation-specific Emmys, “Family Guy” is the first animated comedy to be nominated for best overall comedy series since “The Flintstones” – and that was in 1961.
The vision of Seth MacFarlane (the show’s creator, who is also a producer, writer and does numerous voices), “Family Guy” has charted its own course since premiering in 1999 — and that includes navigating death and resurrection by the trigger-happy Fox network, where, since its return to the airwaves in 2005, the series continues to thrive.
The series certainly fulfills its obligation as a comedy. It’s funny. But it doesn’t stop there, habitually going further, hurling gratuitous cheap shots, cutaways and sight gags in every direction. It targets the very comedy form of which it is a part and even the network on which it appears. Each episode’s story line feels hyperlinked to from-out-of-nowhere bits of foolishness. (Cookie Monster in an asylum battling his cookie addiction. Dick Cheney as a foul-mouthed greeter at Wal-Mart.)
But through it all, the basic setting is the Peter Griffin homestead in Quahog, R.I.
Peter is a cheery, melon-bellied dolt. He is married to randy redhead Lois, a closet psycho who enables Peter’s almost limitless shortcomings.
Teenage son Chris is not only slovenly and overweight, but, by every indication, mentally disabled. Dowdy daughter Meg hates herself (her parents hate her more).
Stewie is a pint-sized megalomanic, raging at humanity with a British aristocrat’s haughtiness. (“Fie on your toilet!” the diapered toddler blasts his elders on the issue of potty-training — “it’s made slaves of you all!”)
The only character who can hear Stewie is Brian, the Griffins’ dog, who stands upright, speaks several languages, reads the paper and likes his martinis dry. Brian has an unrequited lust for Lois, but otherwise, his tastes are of those of a sophisticate.
Peter and his family have an unapologetic cartoonishness that insinuates them in the midst of everyday reality. The characters on “Family Guy” seem infinitely adaptable to any situation. Maybe, even in this strong group of fellow nominees, they can adapt themselves to scoring an Emmy.