‘Family Guy’ tries to tackle family planning

In Features, Film & TV
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane discusses his new show “The Cleveland Show” at San Diego Comic-Con, July 25, where at a previous panel he announced the creation of an abortion episode of “Family Guy” which he said he expects Fox will not air. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane discusses his new show “The Cleveland Show” at San Diego Comic-Con, July 25, where at a previous panel he announced the creation of an abortion episode of “Family Guy” which he said he expects Fox will not air. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

By Ashleigh Johnson
Daily Titan Copy Editor

Hey Lois, remember the time you got that abortion?

It’s probably old news now that Fox has reportedly pulled the plug on a controversial episode of the popular TV show, “Family Guy,” titled “Partial Terms of Endearment.”

Back in July, Fox issued a press release saying that while they would not air the episode, “We fully support the producers’ right to make the episode and distribute it in whatever way they want.”

And it looks like the producers of the show are taking Fox’s promise to heart and have found alternative means of having the episode reach the fans.

Last month the cast of the animated show did a live table read of the script for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, according to an article by The Hollywood Reporter.

The complete episode is also supposed to be included in the upcoming “Family Guy” season DVD.

In the episode, Lois Griffin, the matriarch of the Griffin family (voiced by “Mad TV” alum, Alex Borstein), agrees to be a surrogate mother for her friend and her friend’s husband, both of whom ultimately die in a car accident, leaving Lois and the rest of the Griffin clan to agonize over what to do with the unborn baby.

The creator of the show, Seth MacFarlane, was unsurprised that the show will not make the airwaves and seemed to have no hard feelings toward Fox.

“There are very intelligent people running the network now,” MacFarlane said during an interview with THR. “There’s no doubt in my mind that … these guys had the conversations that they thought critically about it and decided, for intelligent reasons, that it just wasn’t right for them.”

Still, the fact remains that abortion is a subject that is very rarely discussed, let alone made light of, on TV.

“Abortion remains a very sensitive topic, one that advertisers (and thus networks) are afraid to touch,” said Philippe Perebinossoff, an assistant professor of radio-TV-film in an e-mail interview. Perebinossoff also worked as a network censor for ABC for about 20 years.

“If abortion is allowed on a show, usually the decision depicted is that the person considering an abortion decides not to have one,” he added. “If the person were to decide to have an abortion, it is all that much more controversial.”

But “Family Guy” is no stranger to adding controversy to its often warped, quirky brand of humor.

In a 2008 episode, two members of the Griffin family – baby Stewie and Brian, the family dog – traveled back in time to Poland moments, literally moments, before it was invaded by Nazis during World War II. A button on one of the Nazi officer’s uniforms read “McCain/Palin.”

“‘Family Guy’ has built its reputation (and fan base) around controversy, pop culture, irreverent humor and the slaughtering of sacred cows,” said Shelley Jenkins, a lecturer for the Radio-TV-Film Department.

Jenkins recalled a scene in an earlier episode in which some newborn babies, abandoned in a trash bin during a prom, did a song-and-dance number in which they “twirled their umbilical cords like watch chains.”

Though she does not watch “Family Guy,” assistant professor of Women’s Studies Donna Nicol has mixed feelings about the subject of abortion in the media.

“Personally, I think that abortion is a personal issue, even though we politicize it,” Nicol said. “The procedure itself is a private issue, but we need to raise awareness of it from a conversational standpoint. People need to understand the reasoning behind abortion; women don’t just wake up and decide to get one.”

“Family Guy” is not the only show to breach the controversial topic.

In an episode of the show “Maude,” the titular character also underwent the procedure; and one episode of “Degrassi: The Next Generation” faced criticism for its abortion-oriented plot when it aired in Canada, said Perebinossoff.

“Family Guy” airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. on Fox. The new season premieres on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m.

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