Saturday, September 13, 2008
Why The Simpsons is better than Family Guy
Let me start off by saying that I love Family Guy. I watch it fairly regularly after work, and I am yet to see an episode that I didn't find funny. That being said, The Simpsons is the superior show. I think about shit like this pretty often (sad) and have come to the conclusion that the biggest reason, though there are many, for The Simpsons' superiority is its varying levels of allusion.
Allusions in Family Guy are nearly all overt and the main part of the joke. Never seen Star Wars? I can bet you won't get a joke every few episodes. Why is it funny that the mobster says "on this, the day of my daughter's wedding" 8,000 times? No clue unless you've seen The Godfather. Not only will you not get it, no part of the joke will be humorous as their is seldom more to it. Too often the show relies on its viewers to fill in the gaps, running the risk of alienating those not well-versed in the pop culture of the last thirty years. It's solution is to inundate the viewer with so many quickly-paced jokes that they forget the one last one if they didn't get it. The strategy has been extremely successful, Family Guy's soaring ratings are solid evidence, but this type of humor only works on one level. You get or you don't, and you move on.
The Simpson's, on the other hand, uses varying levels of allusion. Entire episodes have themes based on novels and films while background objects and signs give chuckles to the attentive viewer. References are used as both the main punchline of a joke and just another element. Don't get why it's funny that at Maggie's daycare, "The Ayn Rand School for Tots," the babies are taught to rely on themselves? It's okay. In fact, I didn't get it until a few years ago. The antics that ensue are still funny. The allusion is only a piece of the humor. This methods allows The Simpsons to be enjoyed by a much wider audience than Family Guy. Ignorant viewers (ignorant as in unimformed) still enjoy the slapstick, while older, more educated fans have fun with the jokes' deeper comedy. This also makes the show infinitely rewatchable, as there are always more levels to enjoy.
Most of Family Guy's allusions are quickly paced and mainstream enough to be successful, but when they aren't the fail completely. The Simpsons takes a deeper approach, making its humor accessible on all levels. Family Guy may have a few more laughs per minute, but they are not nerely as durable and intelligent as those of The Simpsons.