Burnett files suit against Fox 'Family'

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Fox says Carol Burnett can't take a joke.

The actress says Fox and its "Family Guy" show paid her back for refusing access to her music and other copyrighted materials by lampooning her in an episode of the animated TV comedy, and now she wants them to pay for the indignity.

In a suit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Burnett and her Whacko production company seek more than $2 million for alleged copyright infringement and other claims.

In July 2005, "Family Guy" producers were refused permission to use Burnett's well-known theme music from her long-running former TV show in an episode of the animated series titled "Peterotica," according to the suit. That's when they decided to cook up some paybacks, it claims.

"After permission to use Ms. Burnett's theme music was denied, plaintiffs are informed and believe that Fox caused the 'Peterotica' episode to be rewritten to disparage Ms. Burnett, using Ms. Burnett's signature ear tug," the suit states. "As aired on April 23, 2006, the opening scene of the 'Peterotica' episode of 'Family Guy' shows Peter entering a porn shop with several other characters, including a character named Quagmire. As they enter the porn shop, Peter comments that he expected the porn shop to be dirty.

"Quagmire responds that the porn shop is clean because 'Carol Burnett works part-time as a janitor,' " the suit continues. "The camera then shifts to show Ms. Burnett's 'Charwoman' character complete with trademarked blue bonnet, bucket and mop, mopping the floor of the porn shop in front of a row of blow-up dolls while a slightly altered version of 'Carol's Theme' is playing. One of the other characters then says, 'You know when she tugged her ear at the end of that show, she was really saying goodnight to her mom.' Quagmire then makes a vulgar reference to Ms. Burnett and her father, responding, "I wonder what she tugged to say goodnight to her dad.'"

"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane was not named as a defendant in the suit. Fox, which produces the show and airs it over its broadcast network, issued a statement indicating "surprise" over the legal action.

" 'Family Guy,' like the 'Carol Burnett Show,' is famous for its pop culture parodies and satirical jabs at celebrities," Fox said. "We are surprised that Ms. Burnett, who has made a career of spoofing others on television, would go so far as to sue 'Family Guy' for a simple bit of comedy."

Burnett and Whacko are represented by Beverly Hills attorneys Marvin Burns and Robert Denton.
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