As I’m sure you are all most probably aware, earlier this month it was announced that, come September, the Griffins and the Simpsons would be sharing a small screen together for the first time ever, in an hour-long special titled – imaginatively enough – The Simpsons Guy. During the Family Guy panel at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, a five minute snippet of the upcoming episode was aired, and now, having watched it myself, I’ve decided to share some thoughts.
First and foremost, the number one question on my lips – and doubtlessly on a whole lot of other lips, too – is why? Why was this necessary? Who are the people, in their infinite lack of wisdom, who were asking for this? Cynical though this outlook may seem, I feel that The Simpsons Guy has its origins in little more than a desperate ploy for viewers. And the sad part of this already quite pathetic endeavour is that when looking at it in that regard, I can completely understand why they’re doing it. It’s relatively common knowledge that contemporary Simpsons is performing significantly worse than the so-called “golden age” that many long-term fans of the show (myself included) are willing to return, and despite consistent nominations, the show has not won an Emmy since 2008.
Family Guy is in kind of a similar situation, too. Of the few episodes its current twelfth series that I have happened to catch, the standard has been pretty dire (an episode centred around Peter and a vestigial twin is one that really sticks in the back of the mind as terrible in every way) – emblematic of a rapid decline in quality that would naturally require something like a merging with Fox’s other branding powerhouse to try and reel people back in. At the end of the day, though, even if (or, perhaps I should say when, because I imagine a great many people will be watching, if only out of curiosity above any real belief that it’s going to be any good) the viewers do tune in in their millions, what next? As Brian Griffin is quick to state in the trailer, “this looks like a one-shot deal” – if the quality of recent seasons is anything to go on (which let’s face it, it probably is), then the viewing figures are going to slump straight back down once The Simpsons Guy is all said and done.
Cynical marketing ploys aside, what can we actually expect from TSG? Judging by the trailer, the long and short of it is a once-beloved cartoon that rarely dared to tread beyond the realms of PG13 linking up with a show that has made its name peddling lowest-common-denominator adult humour. Family Guy fans (if there are any still out there) have nothing to worry about here, but I genuinely worry for long-time fans of The Simpsons here. I’m not sure of the best way to go about this, so I’ll lay out in simple English: there is a rape joke. In what is, for all intents and purposes, an episode of The Simpsons. It saddens me that we live in a world where somebody somewhere up at Fox deemed this to be okay. Granted, the show has had its fair share of swing-and-a-miss “edgy” humour (the now-infamous “panda rape” scene from Homer vs. Dignity springs to mind), but when you compare it to some of the utterly abhorrent “jokes” that Family Guy has subjected its audiences to (I’m looking at you, blatant transphobia in Quagmire’s Dad, among many, many others) then the two shows seem a world apart. Just one more reason why there is no way in hell that this crossover is going to work.
Admittedly I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t any parts of the TSG trailer that made me chuckle. Guest appearances from Bob (of the vastly superior Bob’s Burgers) and Cleveland were coupled with a sly fourth-wall breaking nod to their relative lack of success (Burgers somewhat unjustly, The Cleveland Show totally understandably), and Stewie’s sycophantic admiration of Bart provides a few giggles, although knowing Family Guy it will inevitably end up being executed completely over-zealously to the point of unfunniness. If I were to be totally honest with you, I’d say there’s a fairly good chance I’m going to watch it anyway, perhaps somewhat optimistically in the hope that The Simpsons’ writing team had a grander share of the input than their Family Guy counterparts.
As it stands, though – all signs point to a quick cash-in that’s going to do nothing more than stick another nail in the rapidly-closing coffin of The Simpsons, and prove once again that although Family Guy should have died a death a long time ago, it still continues to pervade our pop-culture psyche.