When it comes to bothering powerful TV producers celebrating the 100th episode of one of their shows, I have a fairly simple rule: Let them eat cake.
HitFix caught up with Seth MacFarlane at the 100th episode table read for “American Dad,” one of the three MacFarlane animated comedies expected to be in FOX’s lineup next season, along with the long-running “Family Guy” and its spinoff “The Cleveland Show.”
Because MacFarlane was enjoying celebratory cake and because I was in the middle of a long, series-spanning interview with “American Dad” co-creator Mike Barker, our chat was brief, but covered a fair amount of ground.
The event was celebrating “American Dad,” so I led with that, but then pushed quickly into other key directions including Thursday night’s Stewie cameo on FOX’s “Bones,” plus the guest spot by several stars of CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” on the May 10 episode of “Family Guy.”
[And look for the Barker conversation before the May 17 “American Dad” season finale.]
HitFix: “American Dad” has always seemed like the the kid brother of “Family Guy.” What’s it like seeing it all grown up and reaching this milestone?
Seth MacFarlane: Oh, it’s fantastic. These guys have worked very hard and it’s great to see them all rewarded for it. [Mike] Barker and [Matt] Weitzman have done a terrific job running the show. This is the result.
HitFix: “American Dad” has developed its own voice over the years. How do you see Barker and Weitzman’s work as being different from yours?
SM: They’re definitely more bizarre in some ways. In good ways. They’re very off-beat. They’re not afraid to let a story go to a crazy place. Like the whole family going up to Heaven during Judgment Day. They will take that kind of crazy left-turn that, at times, we wouldn’t do. I think it works for them.
HitFix: Between “Family Guy” and “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show,” how are you balancing your time these days?
SM: Most of the time is still spent on “Family Guy.” It’s worked really well to put the right people in charge of the other shows, people that I trust. That’s been a system that’s worked well, because it’s kept the three shows from feeling the same.
HitFix: Do you still do passes on scripts for the other shows?
SM: Sometimes. Sometimes and sometimes not. With “Family Guy” I am. But to run one animated show is more than a full-time job. To do three would be too much for one person, so it’s more about putting other people in charge who can give passes.
HitFix: And even beyond your three shows, you seem to finding ways to work with the rest of the 20th Century Fox family, with the Stewie “Bones” cameo and the cast of “How I Met Your Mother” guesting on “Family Guy”…
SM: “Bones” has been really cool to us. We’ve worked with them a bunch of times. Every time we have a live-action gag on the show, it’s usually shot on the “Bones” set by the “Bones” team. They’ve really been very neighborly. They came to us and they said it’d be really cool to have Stewie do a guest spot and we were like, “Absolutely. It’s the least we can do. We owe you a hundred times over.” It was fun. They did a great job with it. It was done in a very classy way.
HitFix: Did they write the Stewie dialogue?
SM: They wrote a bunch of options. Good writers are good writers and they clearly paid attention to character. They know the show. They did a great job with the material.
HitFix: How long did the voice work take you?
SM: We recorded it here [at the “Family Guy” and “American Dad” offices] and it took about 20 minutes, a half-hour, and we sent over a bunch of options for them to choose from.
HitFix: How much is Stewie actually going to be in the episode?
SM: I don’t know exactly. It could be as much as 10 percent of the episode. There were a bunch of scenes and I don’t know how many they’re going to keep in. The more that are kept in, obviously, the more expensive it is to animate. They did a great job on all of them, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the result is.
HitFix: And how much is the “How I Met Your Mother” cast in the May 10 episode of “Family Guy”?
SM: It’s a cameo, but they were really cool. There are shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men,” both of whom are very sportsmanlike about being party to making fun of themselves.
HitFix: Y’all have certainly taken the piss out of both shows in the past…
SM: They’re cool. Those are two shows that deserve all of the success that they have. Certainly, “Two and Half Men,” that’s the top-rated show and TV and they’re cool folks, so you like to see that.
Stewie Griffin’s appearance on “Bones” airs on Thursday (May 7) night. “Family Guy” and “American Dad” have two more new Sunday episodes this season.