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It was not Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane but rather Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly who was the brainchild behind Sunday’s big crossover event that sees the characters in the trio of animated comedies contend with a hurricane.
MacFarlane said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters that the Fox executive came to him with the idea for the three-show crossover event that was inspired by theme nights from 1980s comedies.
“You’d have three or four sitcoms in a row and there would be a theme that was interwoven into each one making for a very cohesive fun, special night of TV,” MacFarlane said. “It was something that Kevin Reilly brought up to us and said, ‘We haven’t really seen this kind of thing on television in a while; it might be kind of cool.’ ”
Rather than have characters from American Dad visit Family Guy and the like, MacFarlane opted to use one central story line to protect the integrity of each comedy’s ongoing story rather than have each writing staff pen arcs for characters they were unfamiliar with.
“There were talks initially of doing a crossover with all the characters from all the shows but it became a little bit of a conundrum because you have three different staffs, each of whom is used to writing three different sets of characters,” he said. “This idea of an outside force that sweeps its way through all three shows seemed like a cool way to accomplish that.”
Calling the feat an “enormous challenge,” MacFarlane noted that the three-episode block was a “substantial undertaking” and that he’s open to doing it again should the ratings prove the venture a success.
Anchored by The Simpsons, Fox’s animation block has been invaluable to the network, drawing the otherwise elusive younger male demographic and provide healthy returns for its sister studio 20th Century Fox in syndication. So far this season, Family Guy is averaging 7.8 million total viewers, The Cleveland Show 6.2 million and American Dad is drawing 4.9 million.
“My philosophy is: If it’s something that could potentially ruin the show forever, then it’s probably something we should try,” he said. “Shows live and die all the time and it’s better to go out taking some risks than to rest on your laurels and fall into lazy patterns.”
Fox’s crossover event airs Sunday, starting with The Cleveland Show at 8:30 p.m., Family Guy at 9 p.m. and American Dad at 9:30 p.m.
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