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Inside Move: ‘Family Guy’ thrives on DVD

No hit on Fox, toon finds success on Cartoon Network

It’s been more than a year since Fox aired an episode of “Family Guy,” but the oft-controversial toon laffer is still making noise.

In a surprise even to producers of the show, nearly 400,000 copies of a DVD collection of “Family Guy” episodes have been sold since 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment shipped the three-disc set last month, according to the studio. While nowhere near the 1 million-plus units sold of skeins such as “The Simpsons,” “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” the number is pretty amazing considering the show was never a ratings hit and aired sporadically during a good chunk of its three-year run on Fox.

What’s more, repeats of “Family Guy” have proven to be a major hit on Cartoon Network. Earlier this month, a Thursday night repeat of the skein drew nearly as many viewers 18-34 as hits such as “South Park” and “Trading Spaces” and slightly outdrew MTV’s hit “Sorority Life 2.”

Newfound buzz has even prompted talk from creator Seth MacFarlane of a direct-to-DVD feature-length “Family Guy,” though that’s still in the early stages of discussion.

“It’s all pretty insane,” MacFarlane told Daily Variety. “It’s certainly some vindication and a sign that the show is as popular as we always suspected.”

Indeed, while “Family Guy” bowed with a bang in a post-Super Bowl berth in 1999, its numbers soon cooled, particularly when the show was moved to Thursday night in its second season. Fox execs, particularly entertainment chief Gail Berman, stuck by the skein for three seasons but ultimately pulled the plug in 2001; finale episode aired early last year.

Latest success for “Family Guy” reps a bittersweet victory for MacFarlane.

“Fox certainly gave the show more of a chance than a lot of shows would’ve gotten, and we’re indebted to Gail for the fact that we even got a third season,” he said. “But it’s also frustrating for everyone who worked on the show. We all felt it was killed before its time.”

Berman’s decision to order a third season of “Family Guy” may not have worked out for Fox Broadcasting, but it was a smart move for the News Corp. bottom line. Extra segs produced will allow the conglom to put out a second volume of “Family Guy” episodes this fall.

It’s also good news for die-hard fans, who’ll finally get a chance to see an episode that never aired on Fox. Net declined to run the seg “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,” in which Peter (aka “The Family Guy”) tries to convert his son to Judaism.

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