TV Thoughts: The Animated Crossover

2013-07-19-family_guy_simpsons-e1374238709146The long-anticipated animated crossover of Family Guy and The Simpsons finally happened last night and coming away from the hour-long extravaganza, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the whole thing.

Part of that could that it wasn’t necessarily a true hybrid of both animated series so much as it was an episode of Family Guy that featured characters from The Simpsons as guest stars.   Apparently the writers for The Simpsons gave their blessing to the Family Guy creative team to write the episode, but didn’t necessarily have much more input into the final product.

I have a feeling whether or not you enjoyed the episode depends a lot on how you feel about Family Guy and the Seth MacFarlane animated empire.  I’ll admit I lost interest in Family Guy right after it was resurrected from cancellation and haven’t dropped back in much since (the Star Wars parody episodes being the exception and even those didn’t really click for me).   I felt like the ratio of hits to misses in the joke department was growing too far into the misses side and that even jokes that hit their target tended to overstay their welcome.

And that pretty much sums up my overall sense of dissatisfaction with “The Simpsons Guy” episode.   Peter offends everyone in town with his new comic strip, leading to the family going on a road trip and ending up in Springfield when their car is stolen.  As a set-up, it works well enough and the episode did feature a lot of meta jokes about both series and their history with each other.    A lot of these observations can be summed up with the phrase, “The Simpsons already did it.”  But it gets even more meta in a court dispute between Duff Beer and Pawtucket Ale in which the similarities are made even more obvious.

It all ends up with Homer and Peter engaging in an all-out brawl and beating the stuffing out of each other.  As I said before, I’ve not watched Family Guy much lately, so I assume this is a continued running gag from the chicken fight sequences we used to see.  And yet it’s this sequence that really began to test my patience with the episode and it felt like they were stretching to fill an hour of time.

And while I did like the observation that maybe having a half hour between them and that both families were propping up a lot of other Fox animation, overall I can’t help but feel like this was a disappointing crossover event and one that doesn’t necessarily convince me to come back to watch Family Guy again any time soon.

Interestingly, an hour earlier The Simpsons began its twenty-sixth season with an episode that we’d heard about all summer because a long-established character dies.   The half-hour included lots of in-jokes and red herrings in the opening credits before settling in to tell a story in which Krusty’s father dies and the impact that has on not only him, but also on the Homer and Lisa relationship.   And while the Homer and Lisa plotline ends up with Lisa wrapping her father in bubble-wrap to keep him from coming to harm, it still felt like this bit of silliness was earned and that I had some investment in the story — as opposed to Family Guy where it felt like it was all about being funny or going to an aside as quickly as possible and not allowing us to invest as much in the characters.

Both shows features a variation of the same joke with a bus randomly hitting a character — but The Simpsons felt a bit funnier and more earned than the joke did on Family Guy.

I guess it all comes down to which side of the animation fence you come down on.  For me, it’s The Simpsons, which I still enjoy all these years later and even if the show is repeating itself, it’s still doing so with heart and characters I like enough to want to visit again each week.   If anything, The Simpsons marathon on FXX a couple of weeks ago pointed out that the show isn’t quite as on top of its game as it was in the golden years (seasons 3-9) but that it still has enough hits to be worth watching.

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