Steel Cage: 'South Park' vs. 'Family Guy'

102532__family_lIt was probably inevitable. South Park, following in the footsteps of The Simpsons, has broadsided The Family Guy. Let me give you an idea of this controversy’s scale: This episode also involves cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad. So you’d think THAT would be the flashpoint. But no. It’s Family Guy everyone’s talking about (at least, in this hemisphere).

The debate over Family Guy (is it, in fact funny?) rages on, rocking the hallowed halls of Slackerdom and Insomniopolis. Are its discursive, irrelevant cutaways and chockablock pop-culture references a post-Simpsonian breakthrough or, as Cartman alleges, a lazy cop-out? Is Stewie, the evil baby, hilarious or just awful? Are those those testicles on patriarch Peter’s chin?

If South Park is to be believed (it’s not, of course), even Ayman Al-Zawahiri is weighing in. (The ep seems to have been yanked from Youtube, but you can still watch it here.)

Personally, I go back and forth on Family Guy — mostly back. I’d never make time to watch it, yet when I catch it on Adult Swim, I cannot look away. I do think the cutaways are lazy. I think Peter’s oafishness has never coalesced into anything approaching a coherent character. Yet there is abundant wit, though it’s more like gag-writing than storytelling. I do like Brian, the talking dog, and the unfinished novel Stewie keeps ribbing him about.

But on the whole, I’ve got to agree with Cartman: The show traffics in irrelevance, and will never hesitate to sell out its story and characters for a gag, however weak or cheap.

So tonight, the saga concludes: Cartman’s headed to L.A. to scuttle the Family Guy episode featuring the Prophet Muhammad. He’s not concerned about political sensitivity; he just wants the show off the air. Kyle, a Family Guy fan and free-speech advocate, is trying to stop him. A tense nation is on the edge of its couch as paper cutouts and crude doodles war for supremacy. Samuel Huntington, I hope you’re taking notes: An epic Clash of Animations is in the offing. 


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  • Kat

    I agree, Scott – the best thing about Family Guy is the recurring joke about Brian’s unfinished novel. If I watch, it’s really just because I’m hoping for another riff from Stewie.

  • Stephanie

    South Park is funny for the political,ethnic, and racial wisecracks. Family Guy is only funny to people who grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s. For example, on one of the episodes of F.G., a bunch of suits say “what do we do?” then they open a door and see Cobra Commander from the G.I. Joe cartoons. however, I think that Cartman is mean enough to take on Brian.

  • Frowny McBeard

    South Park thrives on the fact that it’s easy to make, which has kept it topical over its run. (Remember the fourth season ep they made in four days after the Elian debacle?) As a result, they’ve managed to always keep their jokes in the frame of social commentary. Even people crapping out of their mouths had a purpose within what they were trying to say. Family Guy is based around throwaway pop cultural references. It’s the cartoon equivalent of “Best Week Ever” and it’s alternately hilarious and annoying. It’s easy to see why Trey and Matt would chafe at comparisons. MacFarlane is comparatively very lazy. Both are still light years beyond Drawn Together.
    But what really amazes me about this whole thing is that Right Wing pundits have embraced the episode for the Islam thing, when in fact the episode uses the situation to parallel South Park’s own recent problems with episodes being pulled from re-airing (or airing at all in some countries) due to Scientology and the Catholic Church. Even ending the preview for this week’s episode with the “Or will Comedy Central puss out?” question.

  • dma69

    Forget Brian. Cartman needs to take on Stewie. Think about it:
    Two evil characters
    Big egos
    They get the best lines
    They hate everyone
    Let’s get ready to rumbbbbllllee.

  • Carlos

    As a fan of both South Park and Family Guy, I can agree with Stephanie about the types of humor that each show offers (I personally think they’re equally hilarious). It’s understandable that you would certainly have to know your pop culture to get at least a third of the jokes on an average Family Guy episode, but what I can’t understand was how it took people this long to figure out that Family Guy mainly thrives on random humor almost to the point to where they feel it isn’t credible. That type of humor is pretty much what got the show back on the air, and one really needs to have an open sense of humor to appreciate the show. It’s like a Monty Python-type-of-thing. Not everybody gets that type of humor but the people that do get it are what kept that troupe the comic herald that it is today. Family Guy could just be another Andy Kaufman-like example in which most people won’t truly appreciate its comedy til it stands a test of time.

  • Laura

    I have never EVER been able to tolerate a single episode of South Park nor have I ever liked the Simpsons. However, I love Family Guy. Sure, its hardly a work of constant genius but it’s funny. And I do love the old 80s references (after all, I was born in 1979) as well as the fact that in season 4 (I think) they had constant tributes to the Indiana Jones movies with the original score for those scenes in particular. Who cares if it’s right on top of current matters? It’s entertaining.

  • Mel

    As a fan of both shows, I find that both satisfy different parts of my humor. I understand that Family Guy will never win a Peabody Award, but I find its inanity appealing when I need a good, easy laugh.
    If I want some sort of social commentary that puts things into perspective in a humorous way, I turn to South Park.
    I don’t pick one over the other as far as entertainment goes. If the question was which one was more relevant, then sure, South Park would win hands down.

  • johnathan

    cmonnnn, family guy is hilarious. Why are you guys taking the “debate” so seriously? Who cares if there is a story or not? It’s side-splitting.

  • Amber K

    I have been a South Park fan since I first watched Santa & Jesus fight on my roommate’s computer. Years later, my husband introduced me to Family Guy through his incessant watching of DVDs. And I think it is, for the most part, funny. Stewie’s I-Pod commercial cracked me up. That being said, all of Family Guy combined is not half as funny as the first 5 minutes of Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. And I agree that Seth is lazy–listen to the commentary track sometime and find yourself lulled into a coma. Matt and Trey would never do that.

  • Kaybar

    I like both shows, but for different reasons: South Park for its obvious efforts not only to push the envelope, but to rip it, burn it and urinate on the ashes; Family Guy for the sheer stupidity of its “jokes”. The episode of Family Guy that had the Griffins in witness protection cracked me up every time that raccoon attacked Peter from some ridiculous place. I believe that my IQ diminishes a few tenths of a point every time I watch a show like that, but, so be it. By the way, Stewie absolutely rocks!

  • Ceballos

    In keeping with the steel cage theme:
    I’ve got the Simpson’s running in, climbing over the cage with a steel chair and taking out “Family Guy” for, not only the very valid points that Mr. Brown brought up regarding how damn lazy it is, but also for being a blatant Simpsons ripoff.
    Dopey father, sensible wife, three kids (neglected daughter, not-so-bright son, and a baby…where have I seen that before.) I realize Stewie’s not a copy of Maggie…he’s weird combination of Mr. Burns and The Brain (of “Pinky and the Brain).
    That being said, it DOES make me laugh. Brian’s cool. Still doesn’t stop it from being damn lazy and not having ANYTHING original to say.
    If I just wanted to watch carefully-strung-together pop culture references/parodies, I’ll just pop in “Shrek 2″.
    South Park pushes the envelope constantly, is an equal opportunity offender, and wins this matchup easily.

  • The Other Kyle

    Why does everyone forget that Muhammad was already on South Park in the “Super-Friends” episode.
    It’s not like they are doing something crazy. They already did it.
    That being said I think South Park is brilliant this season and can’t wait for tonight’s episode

  • LuvDC

    This is definitely off topic, but if you like Destiny’s Child listen to their never released singles called “Got’s My Own” and “Two Step”. You have got to check them out!!

  • Rahul

    I am so glad that all these people are realizing what a no-plot, random-moment show ‘Family Guy’ has become. All great scripted programming starts with attention to storytelling. Viva Homer!

  • brandonk

    Maybe I’m just not very selective, but I love The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. Family Guy may be derivative and lazy, but it makes me laugh. The Simpsons is very comfortable humor by now, since we know the characters so well, and South Park still manages to shock me once in a while. The bottom line is they’re all funny.

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