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July 14, 2008

MacFarlane, Groening face the critics

TCA -- "Is this where Karl Rove sat? Because I don’t want to get AIDS."

That's Seth MacFarlane, startin' things off classy. Of the hundreds of people that will have taken a turn on the Beverly Hilton ballroom stage by the end of the Television Critics Association's semi-annual press tour, the "Family Guy" creator is probably the only one who could come within 30 nautical miles of pulling that off that joke. It's interesting the things one can get away with saying once people have a certain expectation of your personality.

MacFarlane's panel includes producers from all the Fox animated comedies. Questions range from the status of "The Simpsons Movie" sequel, to what movie MacFarlane wants to parody after "Empire Strikes Back," to whether "The Simpsons" cast salary demands could eventually sink the show. Let's run these down:

-- MacFarlane on the "Sit Down, Shut Up" walkout: "The WGA is a union for writers. To me it’s a no-brainer, they should be covered by the WGA."

-- MacFarlane on why only animated shows can follow animated shows: "If you put an episode of 'Seinfeld' on after 'The Simpson's' it would come off slow and sluggish. … The history of the animation shows it doesn’t work."

-- Critic: "What would you say to somebody who's on the couch with somebody and they say, 'I can't watch this show, it's just a cartoon?'"

MacFarlane: "Give 'Scrubs' a chance?"

-- "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening on why he doesn't like computer-animated movies: "Every one of those shows have a cute animal and then they have human eyeballs with human irises. Whenever I watch one of those movies I get freaked out -- they put human eyeballs into them … I like to work with animators who can draw eyeballs as circles with little ovals and dots."

-- A critic gets a laugh by starting a question with,"Here’s a question for the women and people of color up there" (there are none) ... and asks about the lack of diversity in the genre.

MacFarlane: "There’s something about the medium of animation that it’s male dominated … might also have something to do with the demographics of animation also skewing male."

-- MacFarlane on "Family Guy" Emmy chances: I will be shocked if we are in that final five. I think there’s still a lot of bias against animation. A lot of people in the industry don't recognize it's the same process."

-- MacFarlane says that the followed up to "Blue Harvest," an "Empire Strikes Back" parody, is nearly finished. The episode probably won't air until spin-off "Cleveland" starts mid-season. As for what other property he'd like to parody: "Not to marginalize myself, but if Paramount would let us do 'Wrath of Khan' … if we could do 'Sound of Music,' we would do that… ['Star Wars' worked] because our audience generally knows that movie word-for-word."

After the panel, MacFarlane reiterated he's serious about wanting to do "Khan," but he thinks it will be an uphill battle convincing owner Paramount. "Who knows, after 'Empire' comes out, if it does well, they might be willing."

-- Here's the logline of the upcoming "Simpsons" episode written by Seth Rogen: Comic Books Guy creates a superhero, it's turned into feature film and Homer plays the hero. Seth plays Homer's personal trainer. Homer gets into great shape, but then when the movie is over he can't afford the personal trainer anymore and his life falls apart. "Simpsons" executive producer Al Jean adds that "The Simpsons" will have a parody episode of "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" this fall.

-- "Simpson's" movie sequel?  Not anytime soon. "The reason it took so many years to do first movie is we didn’t want to work harder," Groening said. "It’s going to be a while before a second movie. But no plans at the moment."

-- Groening said he wants to keep doing "The Simpsons" as long as Fox will continue with the show. He elaborated on whether the salary demands of "Simpsons" cast members could result in the demise of the show: "One reason TV shows that are on the air a long time go off the air is because it becomes more expensive to do. I want everybody in this room to get rich off the 'Simpson's.' I’m happy for 'The Simpson's' cast. I want them to be as rich and happy as anybody in Hollywood."


UPDATE: "Scrubs" showrunner Bill Lawrence responds: "Oh is Seth doing a new cartoon? Because he does so many other things. I'm sure the 'Family Guy' spin-off will be totally different." (Lawrence then notes that the two are friends, and the tease is all fair game)


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