Toon ‘Guy’ goes after laffer Emmy

MacFarlane to submit 'Family' in comedy category

“Family Guy” exec producer Seth MacFarlane is taking on the live-action Emmy establishment.

Believing that this may be the year an animated series finally breaks through the Emmy glass ceiling, MacFarlane plans to submit “Family Guy” in the comedy category.

It’s the second year in a row that “Family Guy” has attempted to go up against shows such as “The Office” and “30 Rock.” But last year, “Family Guy” did so only because of a loophole that allowed the show to also compete in the animated category. The “Star Wars” parody “Family Guy: Blue Harvest” was eligible for a toon Emmy, giving the show a shot at both.

This year, with no similar special in its arsenal, MacFarlane and company decided “Family Guy” should still go up against TV’s other big laffers.

“We don’t produce our show the that way ‘SpongeBob’ does,” MacFarlane said. “We’re much more analogous to traditional sitcoms. Our writers don’t come from animation; they come from comedies. I hear people all the time tell me that they love ‘The Office,’ ’30 Rock’ and our show. Then why are we not all competing in the same world?”

Other animated series, including “The Simpsons,” have attempted to break the live-action dominated comedy category in the past to no avail.

MacFarlane was bullish on the idea after “Family Guy” came close last year to a comedy nomination.

The show actually made it to the list of top 10 finalists in the category last year — a feat that other well-regarded laffers such as “How I Met Your Mother” didn’t pull off — but didn’t make the ultimate list of five nominees.

“I suspected we wouldn’t make the top five last year, but that was a big step,” he said.

This year, the TV Academy has expanded the number of nominees in its top categories from five to six, meaning there’s even a greater possibility that “Family Guy” will make the final cut. Plus, fewer sitcoms on the air mean there could very well be an opening for “Family Guy.”

” ‘Family Guy’ is easily one of the top five funniest comedies on television,” said 20th Century Fox TV chairman Dana Walden. “We were happy to support Seth’s decision to submit it there.”

“Family Guy” actually wouldn’t be the first animated series to compete against a live-action comedy. In 1961, “The Flintstones” was up for the humor program Emmy but lost to “The Jack Benny Show.”

Since then, however, no animated series has ever made it back — and none in the modern era of primetime animation, which started with “The Simpsons” in 1990.

MacFarlane admits that, as one drawback of the decision to enter in the comedy realm, the show’s animators won’t be able to compete for an Emmy. But, he noted, “Family Guy” hadn’t been getting much love in the animation category anyway.

“We’ve been so conspicuously absent from the animation nomination for so many years,” he said. “A lot of the artists felt like ‘It doesn’t matter, they’re ignoring us anyway.’ ”

MacFarlane’s other primetime animated series, “American Dad,” won’t follow “Family Guy’s” lead just yet, however.

To promote MacFarlane’s attempts at breaking down the barriers, 20th is taking a page from Barack Obama’s history-making presidential run. The studio’s “Family Guy” Emmy campaign centers on homicidal toddler Stewie, who shows up in a poster similar to the famous one created by Shepard Fairey for Obama. The tagline? “Vote for Change.”

“The thinking behind it was somewhat allegorical to Obama,” MacFarlane said. “Let’s break some new ground here. The goal here is to generate an understanding in the TV Academy on this.”

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