Seth MacFarlane’s empire-building comedy is tied with The Jack Benny Program, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and ER as the sixth longest-running scripted show in U.S. primetime history. It won’t soon pass The Simpsons (28 seasons and counting), but Brian Griffin is coming for you next, Lassie. A drop-off in quality after a decade and a half on television is forgivable, expected even, but Family Guy has really fallen on hard times lately. Ratings are plummeting (season 14 averaged 4.28 million viewers, down three million from season 10’s 7.30 million), and the jokes have grown increasingly stale.
Splitsider‘s John Hugar (who’s also contributed to Uproxx) documented many of the show’s problems in an article entitled, “Can Family Guy Lift Itself Out of Its Perpetual Rut?” Current Family Guy showrunner Alec Sulkin could have waved off the piece, but to his credit, he decided to talk to Hugar about them in an interview. “He said that he agreed with some, if not all, of my points,” according to Hugar, “and that he was working on fixing some of the issues I discussed.” Sulkin thinks Family Guy “is good overall, but I acknowledge that the show has had challenges trying to keep things fresh. There is kind of a burnout factor.”
“I think in the earlier years, the plots were more grounded, and probably more simple,” Sulkin said. “We know who these characters are at this point, so it can be hard to give them new insight, but it is something we work on.” The best episodes these days are the ones that focus on Brian and Stewie — ‘Back to the Pilot’ is a stone-cold classic — because they “have the most interesting relationship, and are probably the most intrinsically interesting characters on the show.” But the writers are attempting to flesh out Chris and Meg, too, including an episode that “would involve Meg coming out as a lesbian.”