Following an anti-climatic Super Bowl between the [covers mouth] Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, Fox made the risky move to debut its new animated series, Family Guy. That was 20 years ago today, and despite multiple cancelations, the move worked out well for everyone involved: Family Guy is now in its 17th season (!), and creator Seth MacFarlane has continued to work with Fox on The Cleveland Show, American Dad!, and The Orville.
To celebrate two decades since “Death Has a Shadow” (which Family Guy later returned to in season 10’s “Back to the Pilot,” maybe the best episode of the entire series), MacFarlane tweeted, “Hey so Family Guy premiered 20 years ago today on Fox. After several cancellations, multiple time slots and a lawsuit from Carol Burnett, we somehow still exist! Here’s to still existing!”
Family Guy was canceled after season two, then Fox changed its mind and renewed the show for 13 more episodes, only to give it the ax again after season three. The only reason it’s still around today is because of high ratings on the Cartoon Network programming block Adult Swim and even higher DVD sales (according to an article published at the time, season one was the “second-bestselling DVD of a TV series” ever, after Chappelle’s Show).
As for the Carol Burnett lawsuit:
She appears in “Peterotica” as a part-time janitor of a porn shop called Pornoslavia. In March 2007, she filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming that this portrayal was copyright infringement for her Charwoman cleaning character being portrayed on the show without her permission. She also claimed that FOX violated her publicity rights. She was asking for $6 million in damages. On June 4, 2007, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson rejected the lawsuit, stating that the parody was protected under the First Amendment, using Hustler v. Falwell as a precedent.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Family Guy‘s 20th anniversary than by bringing up a lawsuit involving a porn shop. Happy birthday!