Family Guy’s Stealthy Renewal Spells Bad News for Broadcast Toons – Animation Scoop

Family Guy’s Stealthy Renewal Spells Bad News for Broadcast Toons

Long a permanent fixture of Fox’s ‘Animation Domination’ Sunday night lineup, Family Guy continues to rack up the episode count as it nears its 14th season. This time around though, nobody really seemed to notice that it was renewed at all, and that could spell trouble ahead.

As far as animated programs go, Fox has had phenomenal success, but also glaring failures. The Simpsons and Family Guy turned out to be literal goldmines for the network, yet attempts to expand the lineup beyond these two powerhouses has been uneven at best. Bob’s Burgers has proven popular, as did King of the Hill, but Futurama, Sit Down, Shut Up, and countless others were relegated to the cancellation pile as they failed to meet the network’s standards. Heck, even Family Guy was canceled before fans made it a point to illustrate how idiotic that decision was.

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The network hasn’t had any qualms about canceling other MacFarlane show, Bordertown, which has been shown the door after just one season. Yet one would understand why Fox is leery of canceling Family Guy again. However, while the renewal of The Simpsons has been guaranteed for years, Family Guy has never quite been able to shake the aura of uncertainty.

That said, circumstances may be overtaking it. While viewers are still watching on Sunday nights, the show’s renewal for another season has generated surprisingly little buzz. The cancellation of Bordertown may be greater food for media fodder, but when a show as successful as Family Guy is given another green light and it goes practically unnoticed, that spells trouble.

It isn’t so much that the news is expected or has become routine, but simply that there seems to be few who actually care about it. The crew of the show obviously care very much about it, but the general public has greeted the news with a collective shrug. Has Family Guy ceased to be something they feel worth worrying about?

Network ratings have been sliding for years as the audience has fragmented, and young people born since 2000 are more likely to be glued to Netflix and YouTube than to abide by an arbitrary programming schedule. While the continued production of Family Guy is dependent on being broadcast and the advertising that supports it, ironically, the show’s core audience is somewhere else in a place where the show is not.

Another issue is that by failing to garner attention, the show drifts further into irrelevance; a purgatory where contemporary culture is banished for all eternity once consumers have moved on. Despite its long and storied history, Family Guy is not The Simpsons. That show built up an enormous amount of cultural inertia and goodwill that permits it to garner attention in spite of having ceased to set the cultural tempo many years ago. Family Guy was huge, but it never accomplished the same degree of cultural permeation and relevance that the Simpsons did, and its continued production is less critical for American society as a result.

Contemporary media is filled the brim with relative noise, and with new content being produced on an enormous scale, existing shows find themselves having to compete with fresh content for viewer’s attention. Netflix has stolen the animated TV show narrative with Bojack Horesman and F is for Family, and seems unlikely to relinquish it any time soon. Any effort by Fox is faced with this additional challenge; it’s not what they’ve accomplished in the past, it’s what they’ve accomplished lately, and the answer is ‘not much.’

Without a fresh, contemporary hit, we may well have entered the twilight years of animated TV shows on broadcast networks. Fox was the only one to have any track record of success, and if they are unable to keep that dynamo turning, then then end will undoubtedly come. While the situation now is not the same as in the early 90s (there are a multitude of alternative sources of animated programming now) it will nonetheless be a sad day if and when Fox decides to throw in the towl. With the tepid response to Famiy Guy’s renewal, that day may be closer than we all thought.

Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny

Being tall, Irish and a civil engineer by trade, Charles stands out in the animation crowd, hence his position as the Animation Anomaly.
Charles Kenny
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