Jewish Journal


August 18, 2009

“Family Guy”—from banned episode to canceled show?


One of my favorite “South Park” episodes is a two-parter known as “Cartoon Wars.” The premise is that the entire country is in a panic because the writers of “Family Guy” are refusing to allow Fox to censor an episode of the show depicting the Prophet Muhammad. (You can imagine where this part of the storyline came from.) Cartman, being the snake he is, sees this as an opportunity to get “Family Guy” off the air for good.

“All it takes to kill a show forever is get one episode pulled,” Cartman tells Kyle as they pedal their Big Wheels to L.A. “If we convince the network to pull this episode for the sake of Muslims, then the Catholics can demand a show they don’t like get pulled and then people with disabilities can demand another show get pulled and so on and so on, until Family Guy is no more—it’s exactly what happened to Laverne & Shirley.”

It appears now, though, that Cartman’s logic was faulty. Shocking, I know. But it turns out that Fox actually has pulled an episode of “Family Guy” and probably will again:

So when a scheduled episode from the upcoming season on the subject of abortion—“Partial Terms of Endearment” by staff writer Danny Smith—ran afoul of Fox censors, showrunner Seth MacFarlane did the only logical thing: he scheduled a table read of the episode before a live audience in the heart of Hollywood. The reading took place last night.

The last time MacFarlane found himself censored by the network was in 2000, a year after Family Guy premiered on Fox, and just before it was canceled for the first of two times. (It was revived in 2005 after blockbuster DVD sales and a popular syndication run on the Cartoon Network; McFarlane’s most recent deal was for $100 million. As one of the writers said at last night’s event, “We argued at the time there weren’t Nielsen boxes in either dorm rooms or prisons, and those were both big demographics for us.”) That was the episode “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,” which, despite being spiked, showed up in the Season 3 DVD set. In that episode, family patriarch Peter Griffin, realizing that stockbrokers and accountants invariably have names like Ian Greenstein and Larry Rosenblatt, seeks to convert his teenage son Chris to Judaism so he’ll earn a better living. “Is there anything you people can’t do—besides manual labor?” he asks one of the Chosen People.

But it was the show’s elaborate musical number—known as a cutout in showbiz parlance—that had Fox in a tizzy: a takeoff on “When You Wish Upon a Star” titled “I Need a Jew,” which included the offending lyrics: “Though by many they’re abhorred/Hebrew people I’ve adored/Even though they killed my Lord/I need a Jew.”


Read the rest and watch a video of the “Partial Terms” table reading here.

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