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Fox hankering for a homer with ‘Dad’

'Family Guy' creator MacFarlane pitches new skein

The network of Homer Simpson and Hank Hill is opening its doors to a new animated patriarch.

Fox Broadcasting has ordered a pilot presentation of the tentatively titled “American Dad,” a half-hour toon laffer in the works from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and veteran “Guy” scribes Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman. Skein will be produced by 20th Century Fox TV, the studio behind “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.”

If greenlit “American Dad” could launch as early as fall 2004.

It will serve up a 21st century toon take on “All in the Family,” focusing on a clan consisting of a right-leaning CIA agent and his wife, their two kids (including a liberal daughter), a housebound alien named Roger and a French-speaking goldfish.

As with “Family Guy,” MacFarlane plans to provide several of the character voices, in addition to enlisting other vocal talents.

Pilot presentation order comes as Fox continues to make a major push to breed the next generation of animated skeins to join still-strong toon titans “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” In addition to the “American Dad” order, net has taken the unusual step of launching an initiative that will result in civilian scribes and comicbook geeks getting a chance to pitch execs their ideas for new animated shows (Daily Variety, Aug. 27).

“Animated comedy is a part of our brand, and has been for a long time,” said Craig Erwich, exec VP of development at Fox Broadcasting. “You’ve got to make sure you’ve got the next ones in the pipeline — not that the shows we have now are going anywhere.”

MacFarlane, Barker and Weitzman will all serve as creators and exec producers of “American Dad,” which will not shy away from political and social humor.

Political punch

“The dynamic is very much ‘All in the Family,’ with a left-wing daughter who’s constantly clashing with her father,” MacFarlane said. “It’s a great time to be doing a show like this, because it’s such a politically charged period that’s ripe for satire.”

Gary Newman, prexy of 20th Century Fox TV, points to the strong DVD sales and off-net ratings for “Family Guy” repeats as evidence that the skein struck a nerve with viewers, despite its relatively short run of three seasons.

” ‘Family Guy’ was really a breakout show in terms of its irreverence and the originality of its characters,” he said. “While it didn’t have a long-term run on Fox, it did have a successful one. And Seth proved, working with Matt and Mike, that he can create characters that resonate years later.”

Indeed, MacFarlane, Barker and Weitzman already seem to have a firm grasp on several main characters.

“The father Stan’s a pompous ass in the Ted Knight vein,” MacFarlane said.

“The family also has an alien named Roger who’s not allowed to leave the house, and as a result, sits around drinking wine and smoking cigarettes.

He’s very effeminate in a Paul Lynde sort of way. And we’ve also got a talking goldfish who’s the result of a failed CIA experiment in which they tried to place the brain of a Frenchman into the body of a fish.”

‘Family’ life

Scribe is also not giving up on “Family Guy.” Strong repeat numbers on Cartoon Network, as well as huge DVD sales, has spurred talk of some sort of revival, either through an original DVD feature or perhaps a new life on cable. MacFarlane recently created an original Stewie sketch for last month’s MTV Video Music Awards.

Meanwhile, MacFarlane, repped by Endeavor and First Entertainment, is writing the feature “Party Animals” for Fox Searchlight and is attached to direct the project.

Barker and Weitzman, repped by WMA and Jeff Frankel, are currently working on the first season of NBC’s greenlit toon skein “Father of the Pride.” Duo are also writing a frat comedy for New Line and the Weitz brothers.

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