One of the strengths of a non-serialized TV show is that the creative team isn't strictly tethered down by anything when creating the stories, but as the long-running Family Guy has proven at times over the years, that kind of freedom can also backfire. Showrunner and executive producer Alec Sulkin has shined some light on the troubles that the self-aware Family Guy team is dealing with on a content level.
Yeah, I think in the earlier years, the plots were more grounded, and probably more simple. 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. Regarding the plots, a lot of times the first act is disconnected from the rest of the show. We call that the first-act mislead. We've been doing it for a long time, but I think in episodes that aren't as strong, it feels like a more glaring issue.
If you've been watching Family Guy for as many years as it's been on the air, then you know exactly what Alec Sulkin is talking about. Those early years of the show fell into a more traditional story structure, and in many ways, that's what made them feel more complete and high-quality. Plus, Seth MacFarlane was in the captain's chair at that time and was in command of everything, and that has definitely not been the case over the years as the creator's career has taken him to a plethora of projects on the big screen and elsewhere on the small screen.
What Sulkin says about the first act mislead also rings true. While those tend to be random and silly, they do often take away from the actual stories those episodes are conveying. For instance, all I could initially remember about Sunday night's episode was that Peter was trying to kill a bat, and then I remembered the rest of it was actually all about anti-vaccinations. Important subject matter like that on a show like Family Guy could have been spun into memorable satire, but instead I keep seeing Peter dressed up as the vampire Lestat. As well as the image below, which is pretty fitting for today's story.
But for all that I can sit here agreeing with what Alec Sulkin said in his interview with Splitsider, I do still watch the Fox show on a regular basis, because there are jokes on Family Guy that won't be seen or heard on other shows (for better or worse). And Sulkin speaks highly of upcoming episodes, such as a three-part arc about Brian facing a stiff Internet backlash, as well as an episode focused on putting Brian and Stewie into the world of Sherlock Holmes, so it sounds like they're working on bulking up the stories to minimize the fluff. It doesn't seem likely that Fox will ever cancel Family Guy, either, so here's hoping things do indeed pick up storywise.