Scribes told to return to work

Production has finally begun on the sixth season of Fox’s animated smash “Family Guy,” 2½ months after the show’s writers were told not to report to work.

“Family Guy” scribes were informed Tuesday that the doors had been unlocked, and they returned to the writers’ room for the first time Wednesday.

Work was halted on “Family Guy” last fall as talks between producer 20th Century Fox TV and series creator Seth MacFarlane on an overall deal had reached an impasse (Daily Variety, Oct. 25).

Although MacFarlane’s deal wasn’t up for several more months, studio execs didn’t want to start production only to halt later if for some reason a deal wasn’t struck. Twentieth brass also hoped to push along negotiations, which had progressed slowly for more than a year.

Decision to bring the “Family Guy” scribes back to work is a signal that progress has finally been made in mapping out a new deal for MacFarlane at 20th; indeed, sources close to the negotiations said a rich pact is expected to be announced imminently. A 20th Century Fox TV spokesman declined comment.

Insiders said it was too soon to gauge whether the late start for season six of “Family Guy” would affect the studio’s ability to deliver episodes on time. Should the show’s 2007-08 premiere appear to be in jeopardy, however, it’s likely the studio will spend some extra coin to quicken the production pace.

MacFarlane stands to sign a big overall deal with 20th given the success of “Family Guy” and his other animated creation, “American Dad.” He’s also behind upcoming live-action Fox laffer “The Winner” (along with Ricky Blitt).

– Michael Schneider and Josef Adalian

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