Seth MacFarlane Should Leave TV Behind

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-02-22 15:13:59discussion comments
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Seth MacFarlane has always been a TV guy. Even before he became one of the biggest names in entertainment with shows like Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, he was part of the team over at Cartoon Network, writing for shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, and even Cow and Chicken for a couple of episodes.

But then 2012 came and completely reshaped his entire career. Ted, MacFarlane’s directorial debut about an overgrown manchild and his anthropomorphic teddy bear, was nothing short of a blockbuster sensation when it was released last June, making its $50 million budget back in its first weekend and going on to earn over $535 million at the global box office. The success has turned the writer/director into one of the hottest commodities in the film world, with multiple projects now in the works and a gig hosting the 85th Academy Awards this Sunday. The world is his oyster, and deservedly so. Ultimately, all of the success proves one important point: Seth MacFarlane should leave the TV world behind and focus his career on film.

What it boils down to is MacFarlane’s style of comedy, which, frankly, is all over the place. All three of his currently-running shows have very similar central premises, following the everyday lives of suburban families, but what keeps them alive and successful are one off jokes and quick gags that regularly allow him to mix things up. The problem with this is that messing around with the same characters over and over again limits scope and possibilities.

This would no longer be an issue if he were to become a full time filmmaker. Without having to worry about starting and ending stories in the exact same place and not being tied down to established characters, MacFarlane would be free to explore every avenue of comedy that he can come up with. Clever ideas would no longer be reduced to 20 minute episodes, but instead could be explored for a full 90 minutes, and, most importantly, once he has explored said ideas to their fullest extents he could freely move on to the next one.

The problem with this idea, of course, is Hollywood’s love of franchising. Any movie that’s even moderately successful has studios begging for a sequel, and that’s a lesson that MacFarlane has already learned. Just a few months after his first film became an international hit NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke was quoted saying that Ted 2 is now one of the studio’s highest priorities, but the writer/director isn’t rushing into anything. Rather than immediately getting to work on the sequel, he’s instead now developing A Million Ways To Die In The West, a new comedy in the vein of Blazing Saddles that’s he’s also set to star in alongside Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried. It probably won’t take long after the completion of that project for him to jump back into the world of Ted, but isn’t it encouraging enough that he’s showing an inclination towards original storytelling over rehashes?

Television is certainly an amazing medium and a home for many of the most talented people in the entertainment industry, but it’s not where MacFarlane should be. It also happens to be a very cushy job, as he is the highest paid writer/producer in TV. Last year, according to The New Yorker, he re-uped his contract with Fox in 2012 and will be making $25 million over the next two years. But when that commitment comes to an end, that should be the time for MacFarlane to graduate. The world of film opens up an infinite number of options for a creative mind like his, and with any luck he’ll take full advantage of it.
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