Though The Simpsons arguably continues to reign supreme in the animated entertainment landscape in terms of sheer longevity, it's not alone in its status as a long-running satirical powerhouse. Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy has been on the air for almost two decades (minus that brief cancellation period), and it has evolved quite a bit since it first debuted after the Super Bowl back in 1999.
Compared to their Season 1 iterations, many of Quahog's residents are ostensibly unrecognizable in certain ways, which has both helped and hindered the show's jokers and storylines over the years. With that in mind, we're going to dive in and dissect how each of the following beloved personalities have evolved and devolved over time. What better way to kick things off that with the titular family guy.
What He Was: When Family Guy first debuted, Peter Griffin was a rough amalgamation of Homer Simpson and Hank Hill. He was definitely dim and oafish, but he also exhibited a stronger conservative streak reminiscent of classic sitcom dads like Archie Bunker or Red Foreman. His stupidity and half-baked schemes were also a bit more grounded in reality, usually ending with him learning a real lesson by the time the credits would roll.
What He Is Now: Nowadays, Peter Griffin is basically Bugs Bunny. Per Family Guy canon, Peter meets the medical and legal requirements to be classified as mentally challenged, and he pretty much has a Deadpool-esque ability to do anything that he wants without fear of physical harm or repercussion, and he's often fully aware of his existence as a TV character. It's a far cry from the Peter Griffin we first met in the series, but his increased distance from reality has helped set Peter apart from other TV dads while also embodying Family Guy's kitchen sink approach to comedy.
What He Was: When Family Guy first debuted, one of the biggest distinctions between it other animated primetime offerings like The Simpsons was the presence of a talking dog. Brian Griffin initially served as an audience surrogate, not only by commenting on the surrounding debauchery, but also by providing Peter and others a voice of reason and guidance in times of crisis. Albeit with the occasional spurts of insanity thrown in for good measure, such as his brief cocaine addiction during his time as a K-9 unit.
What He Is Now: There is a strong case to be made that Brian's transition over the years has been one of the more frustrating Family Guy evolutions to watch. The joke used to be that the dog happened to be the smartest and most level-headed member of the Griffin family, but now he's more surly than erudite, and is often used as the unlikeable elitist liberal jerk who drinks too much and can't keep a steady relationship. It has made for some good jokes, to be sure, but the also has (seemingly intentionally) made Brian somewhat less likable by making him more human.
What She Was: In the early days of Family Guy, Lois Griffin's role within the show's core ensemble was not terribly different from the typical TV sitcom's interpretation of a wife or mom, with Peg Bundy's libido thrown in for good measure. More often than not, she played the straight woman to Peter's comic relief, voicing frustrations at his schemes and occasionally getting unintentionally sucked into the madness before snapping out of it with her good sense intact.
What She Is Now: 2018 Lois Griffin is definitely as insane as the rest of the Griffin family, though she's still one of the most intelligent of the bunch. That allows her to gloriously wade into some of the show's darkest moments by offering up honest commentary about how terrible the family's collective existence is, and how much she and Peter probably aren't great fits for one another as a married couple. Now vastly different from '70s TV moms, Lois is perhaps one of the more unchanged Family Guy characters, but she currently has far more comedic freedom than she previously did.
What He Was: Chris' father-son relationship with Peter was vital at the beginning of the Family Guy run, and most of his storylines centered on the often gross differences between him and his father. Usually, Peter failed to understand his son's lack of interest in traditionally masculine and or teenager-centered activities, as well as Chris' genuine interests in things like art. Chris also used to have a bit of a counterculture streak, barking support for anything appearing to be rebellious in nature.
What He Is Now: Like Peter Griffin, Chris Griffin's IQ has plummeted considerably over the course of the last two decades. For the most part, Family Guy has moved away from any subplots that revolve around Chris showing hidden talents or progressive ideas in favor of him simply being an awkward and bizarrely stupid teenage kid in a perennial state of puberty. On top of that, the show has added new hints that Chris might be a genuine sociopath that some members of the Griffin household should fear. Not just that monkey, either.
What He Was: Like Chris, Meg was initially meant to serve as a counterpoint to her parents, as well as typical TV teens. Meg initially fit the mold of the dull, unpopular, and generally bland daughter living in the shadow of her attractive, fun and cool mom. This offered Family Guy room to explore high school storylines on a regular basis, with entire subplots devoted to Meg's challenged love life and the struggle of growing up in a dysfunctional family.
What She Is Now: The changes made to Meg's personality have been some of Family Guy's most talked-about alterations, because the folks behind the scenes have actually owned up to them over the years. In fact, the male-dominated writer's room mostly started shying away from teenage girl storylines in favor of plots that made Meg the butt of the joke (which has made "shut up, Meg" a go-to catchphrase for the series). The show will occasionally explore her sexuality and other meaningful issues in certain episodes, but for now, she's mostly a punching bag.
What He Was: Stewie Griffin was arguably the most popular and recognizable character when Family Guy premiered in 1999. The talking baby entered the show on a quest for world domination, and many early episodes featured subplots involving Stewie attempting to kill Lois and/or others. He was also dangerously precocious, with a knack for constructing advanced gadgets that would often inadvertently become significant plot points in the stories for other characters.
What He Is Now: Stewie Griffin's vast transformation is another one of the most well-documented show changes, as the creative team has openly addressed having to advance his personality over the years. Barely even a baby anymore by most characteristics, Stewie has pretty much entirely given up his quest for world domination and his mission to kill Lois, and instead, the show has shifted gears to make jokes about Stewie's ambiguous sexuality, his tumultuous friendship with Brian, and his active acknowledgment of the Griffin family's dysfunction. Also, lots more time travel.
What He Was: Glenn Quagmire's position as the Griffins' next door neighbor hasn't changed, and Family Guy's early seasons played up his status as the neighborhood Lothario. His sexualized personality seemed largely based on that of the late Hugh Hefner, with his womanizing and his catchphrases (such as "giggity" and "all right!") providing the bulk of Quagmire's plotlines.
What He Is Now: Quagmire is an interesting Family Guy character to focus on, because it's less a matter of his personality drastically changing, and it's all about the different (and extremely perverted) elements of his persona that were highlighted and expanded. These days, Glenn is actually one of the smartest characters on the show, and has largely eschewed uttering catchphrases to deliver laughs, but his sex drive has also evolved to the point where Family Guy actively acknowledges the fact that he's a full-blown sex criminal and patient zero for a broad range of STDs. Arguably not an improvement.
What He Was: Compared to friends like Cleveland and Quagmire, Joe was a late addition to Petere's Spooner Street friend base. The then-new neighbor (back when Family Guy began) was introduced as the hero next door whose wheelchair was hidden from sight until an eventual reveal. The early seasons of Family Guy largely framed Joe as an inspiration -- the pinnacle of bravery and machismo who had pretty much overcome his handicap.
What He Is Now: Once Joe had put in the requisite number of years as a full-fledged member of Peter Griffin's friend group, Family Guy started showing an increased willingness to make Joe the butt of the joke. In fact, his bravery and strength have been all but eliminated in favor of jokes that poke fun at his paraplegic status, as well as his family's apparent dissatisfaction with the responsibility of having to take care of him. (Bonnie could have made this list just differentiating between Pregnant Bonnie and Non-Pregnant Bonnie.) Moreover, Joe has also turned into something of a quirk-driven oddball who consumes a toxic number of Mounds bars and requires index cards to maintain full conversations with people.
What He Was: Cleveland Brown didn't have very much personality at the beginning of Family Guy, which was largely by design. Most of the jokes involving Cleveland focused on his slow Southern drawl, his slow Southern aptitude, and his generally imperturbable demeanor in the face of almost any situation that life would throw at him. His despair-wracked reactions to constantly being exposed mid-bath by Peter are always perfectly reasonable, though.
What He Is Now: The biggest changes made to Cleveland Brown's personality largely come about during and after his own spinoff series. The Cleveland Show needed to expand his personality beyond a monotone voice and cucumber-cool attitude, so they made him an extremely animated stereotype of African-American culture. (And even a bear.) The shift has been substantial, and is often clearly meant to push the show's racial humor boundaries, but it has also allowed him to take a more active role in far more of Family Guy's subplots.
What He Was: Mort Goldman was one of the less defined Family Guy characters when he first debuted. In fact, the joke was mostly the fact that he and his wife Muriel were identical to their son Neil Goldman -- who had a crush on Meg Griffin. Mort didn't get many storylines in the early seasons, with the show mostly treating the Goldmans as comic relief in Quahog.
What He Is Now: In recent years, Family Guy has largely moved away from the Goldman family except for Mort himself. Neil Goldman barely shows up in the series anymore (which likely has quite a bit to do with the fact that fewer stories focus on Meg these days), and the show killed off Mort's wife, Muriel. Now a widower, Mort has become a secondary member of Peter's core group of friends (think Butters on South Park, and how he relates to the primary four kids) and his Jewish heritage has become a primary source of fodder for the series to lampoon.
Family Guy returns on Sunday, March 18 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX. It's far from the only show to return or debut this spring, so make sure to take a look at CinemaBlend's 2018 midseason premiere guide to see what else is on the horizon over the next few months!
Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.
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